'Seabiscuit' ready to run

Tennessee running backs coach Trooper Taylor figures he has a thoroughbred in his stable, so he's given Gerald Riggs an appropriately equine nickname.

"We nicknamed him Seabiscuit because he's the dark horse in the Heisman race," Taylor quipped. "I guess that makes me the jockey because I'm sure going to ride him until he falls out … I promise you that."

Riggs, who proved himself by gaining 1,107 yards last season, projects to carry a lot this fall. That's why UT coaches gave him very little work in preseason.

"I didn't want to leave it out on the practice field," Taylor said. "He had done so well in the spring and in the summer working out, and really looked good coming in."

Riggs usually carried a few times early in UT's preseason scrimmages, then retired to the sidelines. There was a reason for that.

"There were a couple of plays that we as an offense had scripted specifically for Gerald that we wanted to see if he'd improved on, and he showed us he could do that," Taylor said. "Once he did, we pulled him out of the scrimmage."

Asked if his relative inactivity this preseason made him a little antsy for the games to start, Riggs nodded emphatically.

"Yeah," he said. "Being held out a little bit was to get me into the season as healthy as possible. But I'm definitely ready to get out there, get some plays, do whatever I have to do to help this team win."

Given the lack of experienced players behind him, Riggs may get a lot more carries in 2005 than he did in 2004, when he split time with Cedric Houston. Asked how many carries per game he expects, though, Riggs shrugged.

"I don't know; I would guess around 20," he said. "But it depends on what the coaches have in the game plan and what they're going to try and accomplish. Obviously, we want to win the ballgame, move the ball and establish our offense. How they (coaches) do that is up to them. I just know that when they put the ball in my hands I do my job."

After battling Houston and Corey Larkins for the No. 1 tailback spot last preseason, Riggs got the job almost by default this preseason. That wasn't necessarily a good thing.

"It was a little tough at times because I like to play myself into a rhythm," he said. "I don't like to sit around, then go in."

So, how does it feel knowing he's "The Guy" this fall?

"Knowing from the first carry that I'm going to be carrying the ball is probably going to make things easier on me," he said. "I want to make big plays but, at the same time, I won't have to press because my numbers (carries) are going to be limited. That's the luxury of knowing you're going to be called on to do a lot."

The biggest luxury he has, however, is a healthy body. Riggs had a bad ankle his freshman year and struggled with injuries his sophomore year, as well. He was reasonably healthy as a junior, and finally showcased the talents that made him a High School All-American at Chattanooga Red Bank.

"Coming into the season healthy was the biggest thing," he said. "That's something I hadn't been able to do, with the exception of last year. It was big for me last year and it's even bigger for me this year, knowing I'm going to carry the load a little bit more

"This is the healthiest I've been going into any season. Last year I had a few small things, nothing that would keep me out. This year I'm 100 percent healthy and totally ready to go."

Riggs is more than ready to go. He's EAGER to go. Preseason drills seemed to last an eternity. "Time has definitely gone by slow," he said. "The last two weeks felt like two months. I'm real excited to get out there, get the season kicked off, try to win some ballgames."

Clearly, "Seabiscuit" is chomping at the bit.

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