Spring Practice Player Profile: Gerald Riggs Jr

Tailback Gerald Riggs Jr, was as impressive running the ball as Jones was catching it, but he, too, may not be touching the football come September. He reportedly has 18 hours of class work to pass by fall in order to regain his eligibility.

''He's a really fine back,'' Fulmer said, ''but he's got to get his grades in order.''

The grades that Fulmer is referring to, happens to be a huge factor in Gerald's future as a Volunteer. The usual routine is for first semester freshmen to take 6-9 credit hours during football season to adjust to the change in their lifestyle and teach them how to balance all the requirements that they will have to meet over the next 4 or 5 years. The one drawback is this; You must do decent in the few hours you have during your first semester or you will be hurting when your second term rolls around.

Gerald Riggs Jr found himself ineligible for the New Year's Eve matchup with Maryland in the Peach Bowl because of his academic mishap. Thus leaving a bad taste in many people's mouth and speculation that Riggs wouldn't be around for another year in orange.

Unfortunately Gerald's off the field efforts are going to overshadow his on-field performances he has put on this spring. For the record, Riggs may have shown better to this point than any other tailback on the roster.

The results became apparent at the first scrimmage of the spring session. Riggs made back-to-back runs of 10 yards right up the gut. Of course, that may be more an indictment of the middle of the Vol defense than a sign that Riggs is ready to live up to his prep All-America billing. He later hit the middle and found nothing, bounced outside for a nice nine-yard gain. On the next play he circled left end for an 11-yard gain.

In the first 7 practice sessions, Riggs has continually left his teammates on defense looking at his palm as he raced past them. His performance has not been surprising, but it has been a shock to see how much better he has looked compared to fellow tailbacks Jabari Davis and Cedric Houston.

On Thursday, Riggs was the main man with Juniors-to-be Davis (broken bone in his hand) and Houston (sprained ankle) sitting out due to injuries. In their absence, Riggs showed great quickness, especially getting to the corner. Getting to the edge has always been a strength of the sophomore.

Last season when the Vols traveled to Georgia, they were to be without Houston who was the starter at the point in the season. Riggs saw limited action that day in October, but did leave one lasting impression on yours truly. As Gerald took the handoff from fellow freshman James Banks, he darted outside immediately. He made three Dawg defenders miss and picked up about 13 yards on that particular play. Now as fate would have it, that would his season highlight. He began to handle the football badly and didn't see many more snaps in the agonizing season.

IF Gerald can get through his academic woes in the spring semester, he has the potential to be a star in Tennessee's offense. The word IF will carry very heavy over the next few months though. One way or the other, Tennessee will carry on with or without Gerald Riggs Jr. The question is: Will Riggs be another Jamal Lewis or another Onterrio Smith?


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