Sanders praises Riggs

Like many Vol fans, Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders kept waiting for Gerald Riggs to break out and become the player he was in high school.

Apparently, the wait has ended. Riggs got his first college start last Saturday night at Ole Miss and responded with his 100-yard rushing performance in the past four games. No one was happier to see it than Sanders.

''He's made tremendous progress,'' the Vol aide said. ''We (coaches) always said that if the light ever came on, he'd be a tremendous player. Obviously, the light has come on for him. He's running really, really well. I don't think there's any doubt, based on the last two games, who's been our best tailback.''

Like many premier tailbacks, Riggs has running instincts that coaches can't teach. He knows when to lower his shoulder and when to cut. He knows when to outrun a defender and when to try to outmaneuver him. He knows when to slam into a hole and when to pause while it opens. Still, he can refine some things.

''He's running hard and seeing things well,'' Sanders said. ''He's still learning a little bit of patience but I like the way he's running. He's making people miss and he's gaining yards. There are very few negative plays (losses) when he's in there.''

Riggs accomplished next to nothing his freshman and sophomore seasons but he has blossomed as a junior. Despite starting just one of the first six games, he's averaging 86.8 yards per game -- a pace which will put him over the 1,000-yard mark if Tennessee plays 12 or more games.

''If Gerald had had the attitude he has right now since he got here, there's no telling how good he could be,'' Sanders said. ''His first two years weren't a complete waste, but I think he realizes what he didn't accomplish that he COULD HAVE.''

Although Riggs broke a 21-yard touchdown run vs. Ole Miss, his specialty is consistently picking up 3, 4, 5 and 6 yards at a clip. That's significant because even second-and-seven is a whole lot easier to convert than second-and-10. Travis Henry has the same trait, which led one reporter to ask Sanders if the two are comparable.

''I think there are some similarities there,'' the coordinator said. ''I don't know that Gerald is quite in that category right now ... but there are a lot of similarities.''

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