Defensive back Cody Riggs will transfer to Notre Dame after he graduates from the University of Florida in May, the Fighting Irish announced Wednesday.
The news did not come as much of a surprise, as the Florida Gators announced Riggs’ intentions to transfer a few weeks ago.
Riggs has been a valuable member of Florida’s secondary for the past four seasons. He has played in 40 games, including 26 starts at both cornerback and safety. He has recorded 107 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and eight pass breakups for his career.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder will have one season of eligibility left at Notre Dame. It is expected that he will transition back to his original position at cornerback after spending 2013 exclusively at safety. He will be able to play immediately for the Irish because of the NCAA’s graduate-transfer rule.
Given his experience and versatility, Riggs will certainly be missed in a Florida secondary that will now be looking to replace four starters from last season. So, who on Florida’s roster will step in and take Riggs’ place at the backend of the defense?
There are a multitude of options for the Gators, who have done a remarkable job adding depth in the secondary in its last two recruiting classes.
Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman have the most experience of the group. Maye, a redshirt sophomore, started the first two games of last season before being benched in favor of the more experienced Jaylen Watkins. Maye finished the year with 16 tackles and one interception. With the plethora of young talent Florida has competing for playing time in the secondary, now is the time for Maye to step up and claim the job that was once his to lose.
Gorman is a player that has seen a lot of action in his three years at Florida, appearing in 37 games, including five starts last season. At 5-foot-10, 184 pounds, Gorman is slightly undersized compared to most safeties. However, when he’s on the field, Gorman always seems to be around the ball, as seen by his seven pass breakups and one interception last season.
Keanu Neal is my favorite to land one of the starting safety gigs in 2014. The sophomore appeared in 12 games as a true freshman last season and saw plenty of action on special teams and as a backup safety. At 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, Neal has the size to play in the box and be a big hitter on Florida’s defense.
Redshirt freshmen Nick Washington and Marcell Harris are two slightly under-the-radar candidates, whose freshman season’s were cut short due to injury. The 6-foot, 191-pound Washington saw action on special teams in two games last season before earning a medical redshirt. Washington has the versatility to play both corner and safety, similar to former Gator defensive back Jaylen Watkins. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds Harris is more physically imposing than any of the other candidates. He plays with the speed and aggressiveness that makes him an effective defender against the run.
No matter which one of these players emerges, each of them appears more than capable of starting. With such great depth, Florida’s secondary looks to be in good shape not just for the upcoming season, but for years to come.
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