Riggs vows to 'force issue'

Tailback Gerald Riggs, Jr., has yet to play a good game for the University of Tennessee football program but he's talking a good game these days.

Asked recently how this spring compares to previous springs, he replied: ''I'm going to assert myself a lot more, force the issue myself, rather than sit back and wait to see what happens. I think it's time to go out there and make it happen for myself ... force the issue and never leave any doubt.''

Riggs spent some time in the doghouse of Woody McCorvey the past two seasons. New running backs coach Trooper Taylor promises a ''clean slate'' for Vol backs, however, which provides a second chance for Riggs. Asked if he believes there is open competition for the tailback job this spring, he replied:

''Yeah, I do. I really do. That's why I'm more excited about it than I think I've ever been. I have a little bit more fire to myself coming into this spring than I did last year around this time. It's going to be open, it's going to be real interesting. It's going to be fun, too.''

Riggs said he is ''comfortable'' with Taylor, adding: ''I feel that I'm going to be able to get some things done that I wasn't able to get done the past couple of years.''

Riggs came to UT with glowing credentials. As the son of former NFL great Gerald Riggs Sr., and a prep All-American at Chattanooga's Red Bank High School, he was supposed to be an impact player for the Vols. Instead, he carried 17 times for 49 yards as a freshman and 44 times for 197 yards last fall.

Does he feel a sense of urgency now that he has basically squandered two years of eligibility?

''Yeah, to be honest with you,'' he said. ''That's really why I've had the mindset of going out and asserting myself this year and really forcing the issue. I really want to get things going for myself. I want to make a good future for myself, and it needs to start today.''

Asked how he plans to assert himself, Riggs replied: ''Just go out there from Day 1 and be on top of everything I need to be on top of -- hustling from drill to drill, running every play out hard ... just go out and put 110 percent in every day. That's what I mean by asserting myself.''

Riggs believes he improved himself during the winter weight workouts, and that these improvements will show up in the weeks and months ahead.

''I got better in every aspect of what I need to be doing,'' he said. ''I trimmed a lot of baby fat, so to speak, and I got faster. I think I'm a lot better player than I was a couple of months ago, at the end of the (2003) season. I'm excited about what's going on.''

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