“This is actually one of the first fall camps where I’ve been having a lot of fun,” Riva said. “I came out and have been determined to lock down a position. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve just got to come out here every day and prove it.”
Riva has been working as the Huskies' starting right tackle throughout fall camp. While he has earned a spot with the first team, he takes the field every day looking to prove he belongs.
“The thing is, with coach [Dan] Cozzetto, you never lock anything down and you’ve got to come out here every day and prove it,” Riva said. “That’s the kind of guy he is and that’s why I came here. That’s how Sark is. You’ve got to bring it every day.”
When Riva signed with the Huskies in 2010, he was an all-state lineman who spent his high school career at Seattle O’Dea opening holes for Irish running backs.
When it came to pass protection, though, he admitted recently, “I didn’t really know what I was doing."
“By the time we got him, he was still growing,” Sarkisian said. “He was still a bit awkward to his body and so much of pass protection is technique and having great lower strength so you can sit down and anchor and then you have to move your feet really well.”
Riva was blessed with size, but it took time for him to fill out his frame, time for the coaches to teach him the technique that now feels natural in his third season.
“I’m not questioning what I’m doing,” Riva said. “I just react now.”
As tough as he is talented, Riva has a physical style coaches covet. They key, though, is harnessing his aggression so he can match up with the movement modern defenses throw at offensive linemen.
“You have to be under control so that you can see the movement, collect the movement and then block the movement,” Sarkisian said.
Working against defensive ends like Talia Crichton and Josh Shirley, Riva has been able to block players with separate styles -- Crichton is a power rusher, while Shirley uses his speed.
The change of pace from play-to-play has helped Riva’s development.
“It’s tremendous,” Riva said. “I can’t thank them enough, especially with Josh. We hate each other out here, but our lockers are next to each other, we’re actually friends. I need them.”
With as many as eight players penciled into the offensive line’s regular rotation, camaraderie and chemistry is essential. Riva said this group is as close as any he has been around during his college career.
“I feel like we’re really close,” he said. “We do a lot together. I love those guys.”
While Riva has matured both physically and mentally, it is his confidence that has allowed him to secure his spot.
“Confidence is everything in life,” he said. “When I make a call, I know it’s right.”
When Riva steps on the field, he might look the part. But, against San Diego State Saturday at CenturyLink Field, he plans to prove he can play the part, too.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “I can’t even really explain it. I’ve watched the Huskies growing up and it means a lot to me.”