One pulls ahead in battle at safety

While Will Muschamp has openly stated – jokingly, we think – that the battle for the starting kicking job keeps him up at night, that isn’t the only position battle that has the head coach worried this fall.

“We’ve got to sure up some things at the safety position,” Muschamp said during spring camp. “We’ve got to become more productive. We’ve got to be better communicators in getting us aligned and getting us in the right looks.”

That player the past two seasons was Matt Elam. In Will Muschamp’s defense, the safety is like the quarterback of the defense, making sure the secondary is lined up correctly and everyone knows their assignments. So while the Gators will obviously miss Elam’s production and numbers from a season ago, what they will miss most is having someone at safety that understands the defense and can make the correct calls and checks in the heat of battle.

With fall camp underway and kickoff inching closer and closer by the second, the time to find a player that can step up like this is dwindling quickly. Fortunately for Muschamp and the Gators, one player is starting to distance himself and show the leadership qualities that Florida needs on the back end of the defense.

“Cody Riggs has done a good job. Cody has,” Muschamp told the media on Monday. “He has distanced himself.”

Riggs started cross training at safety after his freshman season and the time he has spent playing safety in the offseason the past two years is paying off for the redshirt junior.

“I played a lot of safety last year and in the spring game going into last year,” Riggs said at Florida’s media day. “It’s really not that hard and watching Matt [Elam] and Josh [Evans] gave me a perfect example of how to do it the right way. Last year was a little hard to get used to, but this year I’m more comfortable. I’m excited for it.”

The foresight to have Riggs begin training at safety two years ago is paying dividends for the Gators as they prepare for the 2013 season but Riggs is only one player and Florida still needs another one to step up and fill in the other safety position.

“We’ve got to get better,” Muschamp said about the position on Monday. “We need more consistent communication, playmaking ability, leveraging the ball in the run game and directing some traffic on the back end. We’ve thrown a lot at them purposely. We need to improve.”

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC