With development, Gators should be safe at safety

Florida defensive back Cody Riggs made the transition from cornerback to safety in his junior season for the Gators.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 11:57 p.m.

This is the 11th of a 12-part series breaking down the Florida football roster, looking ahead to 2014 and projecting how the Gators might look at each position:


WHO’S GONE: Jaylen Watkins, a former cornerback who started 12 games at safety and broke up seven passes this past season.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Cody Riggs, sophomore Marcus Maye, senior Jabari Gorman and sophomore Keanu Neal.

WHO’S NEW: Redshirt freshman Marcell Harris.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Gators return four of their top five safeties, so this is a potential area of strength in 2014. Riggs, a former starter at cornerback, played well at his new position last season and figures to be the leader of the secondary. In the spring, UF will try to determine the starter at the other safety position. The leading candidates are Gorman, a senior who has seen extensive playing time, and sophomore Marcus Maye, a starter entering last season who lost his job early in the year after making some crucial mistakes in coverage. Maye rebounded from his early setback and re-emerged in the latter half of the season, seeing valuable playing time and making some plays. He has the size/strength/speed combination the Gators are looking for at the position opposite Riggs. Two highly rated players from last year’s recruiting class also figure prominently in the competition for playing time in the spring — Neal and Harris. Neal was a standout on special teams and saw playing time on defense as a true freshman. He is considered one of the biggest hitters on the team. Harris, considered an elite safety prospect coming out of high school, was expected to push for playing time as a true freshman, also, but a knee injury during his senior season lingered and he had to redshirt in 2013.

THE SKINNY: Despite the loss of Watkins, the Gators appear to have plenty of experience and playmaking ability at the safety positions, led by the two seniors — Riggs and Gorman. If the younger guys (Neal, Maye and Harris) continue to progress, the safety positions should be a team strength in 2014.

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