Dietrich Riley is a year older and a year wiser than he was as a true freshman last season, and he's also out to show he's more than just a big hitter.
Riley earned that reputation with a barrage of big hits in fall camp last season and had UCLA's offensive players' heads on a swivel almost all season. He solidified it with a helmet-popping hit on Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers last season, but this season, he said he's looking to become a more complete player.
"Everyone knows I can be physical in the box, but I just want to become an overall defensive player like Rahim Moore," Riley said, invoking UCLA's former all-American now with the Denver Broncos. "That’s all I want to do is improve my coverage abilities and be more reliable."
Riley said he's also focused more on becoming a leader. As a safety, he's one of the defensive quarterbacks with the ability to see the whole field. And now with a year of part-time play under his belt as well as a spring football session, he feels more comfortable in that regard.
"I know the playbook really well," he said. "Now it’s just a matter of correcting little mistakes—alignment and stuff like that--and becoming more consistent."
He acknowledged that he has seen the video of the hit on Rodgers more than a few times and friends still post links to it on his Facebook page, but he's not quite as enamored with it as he was last year.
"It’s something great to look back on, but at the same time I’m moving forward," he said. "It was a great highlight. A big hit is always great, but part of my job is pass coverage, too and I need to show that I can cover those speedy guys coming down field."