When Miami safety Ray-Ray Armstrong was dismissed from the team earlier this summer, an obvious opening was created in the starting lineup.
Kacy Rodgers II just figured he would be next in line. Rodgers has been preparing since the spring to win a starting job in the defensive backfield, so losing Armstrong did not change much for him. He continued to push every day to become the starter, with different players competing against him.
So it is that Rodgers has a chance to be in the starting lineup when the season opens Saturday against Boston College. Rodgers is listed as the co-starter at safety with freshman Deon Bush on the latest depth chart the Hurricanes unveiled. Though neither player has ever started a game, they can rely on the experience of fellow safety Vaughn Telemaque, who has started 36 games in his Miami career.
"It's nice to look up to Vaughn," Rodgers said in a recent phone interview. "It's good to watch him work and he's helped better my understanding of the game. The game is a lot faster than practice, and just the way he approaches that, it's been nice to see and do that in my own game."
Rodgers was actually starting ahead of Telemaque in the spring and right next to Armstrong, so that is why he had grown used to the idea of becoming a starter for the Hurricanes. But with Armstrong gone, Rodgers has had to learn both safety positions. He has been getting the bulk of his work at strong safety, but said the positions are interchangeable in the Miami scheme.
"The way we're practicing, I'm prepared to play either safety," he said. "In our scheme, you have to know both so really just getting mroe reps doesn't matter."
Rodgers spent the summer really working on being a more physical and sure-handed tackler, while also learning how to shed blocks. He worked much harder in the weight room than he ever has, setting a personal record in the bench press, with 23 reps at 225 pounds. His previous personal best was 19.
He also added a few more pounds and is up to 212, about five more pounds than the spring. In all, Rodgers feel he has given himself the best opportunity to win the starting job. Headed into this season, his game experience has been limited to mostly special teams. He finished 2011 with just three tackles.
"Personally, I'd like to be someone the team can count on, someone the team feels confident in when he is in the game, a safety who can get the job done," Rodgers said. "I'd love to start. I just have to keep playing well. There's a safety right behind me that wants to start as well. Nothing is set in stone, but I want to and I hope I can."