It was a bittersweet moment for Florida Gators fans, players and coaches to see safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans go to the NFL this past spring. Elam was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens and Evans was a sixth-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. This leaves the Gators with two big shoes to fill at that position.
The Gators were ranked No. 1 in pass efficiency defense, allowing only seven touchdown passes all season, and No. 2 in the SEC in total defense in 2012. Gators head coach Will Muschamp has been worried about satisfying that position this season. His concern is somewhat reasonable, but the Gators’ secondary has an exceptional amount of depth. Two players who could step up are Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins.
Watkins started 11 games at corner last season, but he is expected to have one of the two safety spots going into 2013. Riggs, who broke his foot early in 2012 and was out for the rest of the season, will have a chance to team up with Watkins. Muschamp has referred to both Riggs and Watkins as “luxuries,” being that they can both effectively be used at corner and safety. Also, Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman will make appearances at the safety position.
Depending on which team Florida’s playing at the time, the safety duos may be mixed and matched throughout the season. Luckily, the Gators have enough talented players to do that. They might not be as outstanding as they were when Elam and Evans were running the show, but I think the Gators will be just fine at the safety position.