As UM football continues to slog towards Chestnut Hill, we here at the 7th Floor will breakdown each position group on the team. Today, we will be looking at the safeties. It's an interesting group with enough talent to definitely be an enormous help on our young defense. Oh, and I challenged myself to only say Ray-Ray Armstrong's name three times during this whole article (that time doesn't count).
Before August 2012 rolled around, there was little doubt that redshirt senior Vaughn Telemaque and plain ‘ol senior Ray-Ray Armstrong (1st time!) were to start at the two safety positions going into the season. As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." Needless to say, Ray-Ray (2nd time!) wasn't necessarily a ‘good thing' for the University of Miami off the field, but on the field... yeah, we could have used him this season. Oh well. Some people like to leave on a dramatic note. Nevertheless, the safeties are heating up to have one of the most competitive position battles at strong safety this season. Read below the break to see why!
VAUGHN TELEMAQUE / Redshirt Senior / 6'2" 202 lbs / Long Beach, CA
2011 Stats: 59 tackles in all 12 games, 1 interception
Say hello to the most experienced player on the entire Miami Hurricanes football team for this season! Vaughn Telemaque has started all 25 games in the past 2 years as a ‘Cane. It's safe to say that Telemaque's position as the starting free safety (FS) has been conclusive since he announced he was returning for his senior year.
Now, Telemaque has an important senior year ahead of him. Scouts have already praised him for having NFL Draft-talent. He was fourth on the team for tackles in 2011, an impressive statistic for someone who is so far away from the run physically on the field. Telemaque has been praised as a strong tackler, which is definitely noted in his 2011 stats. However, he lacks better vision to pick up on coverage as a safety. If there's something that Telemaque needs to improve upon in 2012, it's this: play better coverage. As a leader on the defense, the coaching staff is expecting him to step it up this season and play at a much higher level then we have already seen from him in his career at UM.
AJ HIGHSMITH / Redshirt Junior / 6'0" 208 lbs / Missouri City, TX
2011 Stats: 12 tackles
Listed in Coach Golden's most recent depth chart as the backup to Telemaque at free safety, AJ Highsmith poses one of the most interesting position battles on all of the defense for 2012. As I mentioned earlier, and for the final time, Ray-Ray's (3rd time!) removal from the team opened up a serious battle between this redshirt junior and junior Kacy Rodgers (more on him later) for the starting SS spot. Expect Highsmith to be thrown back and forth with Rodgers for that starting position throughout the season. Oddly enough, both men are embracing the competition. This is what Rodgers has to say about Highsmith:
"A.J.'s probably the smartest DB we have. He's probably one of the smartest football players I've ever been around. The other one was Sean Spence. Any questions I have I go to A.J." - SS Kacy Rodgers
The coaching staff as well throughout training camp has also noted Highsmith's football IQ. For now, I can see either men starting and succeeding at this position in 2012.
KACY RODGERS / Junior / 6'2" 212 lbs / Southlake, TX
2011 Stats: 3 tackles
As the starting strong safety for the Miami Hurricanes, Kacy Rodgers has a lot of work in front of him... and behind him. Highsmith will be pushing him throughout the season in practice which will have to force Rodgers to truly step it up to prove to Golden that he's the right man for the job.
However, inexperience is something going against him. In 2011 Rodgers played very little, and if he did, it was on special teams. 3 tackles is not much of a résumé when it comes to whether or not Rodgers or Highsmith will be starting. Yet, Highsmith as well lacks experience starting and playing as well. Gosh darn it, why couldn't Ray-Ray (DAMMIT, 4th TIME. SORRY GUYS) have just been a smart, experienced Hurricane and stayed on the team?
DEON BUSH / Freshman / 6'1" 195 lbs / Miami, FL
The 4-star recruit from Miami, Deon Bush is currently listed on the depth chart as having a 50/50 chance on being the backup behind the starting SS spot. Listed as an OR against Rayshawn Jenkins, expect Bush to play on special teams a lot. Praised for his athleticism in high school, Bush is excellent in man-to-man coverage. He drops back at ease and can deliver a hard punch to others. In the running game, scouts have also had great things to say in how physical he is in the running game. Like many other men in the 2012 class, I'd like to see Bush get some playing time. If he puts in the time and energy, expect him to have a chance to have a huge role on the defense in the upcoming years as he gets older.
RAYSHAWN JENKINS / Freshman / 6'1" 203 lbs / St. Petersburg, FL
As mentioned earlier, it's a war in the strong safety spot for both the starting and backup roles. Rayshawn Jenkins, the 3-star recruit from west of Tampa, is listed as being the OR to be the backup with other freshman Deon Bush. As a senior, this young man was the jack-of-all-trades! He played multiple spots on the football field, including quarterback, wide receiver, running back AND defensive back. Scouts have said that Jenkins plays physical and can be placed in multiple roles on the field at different positions. Like Bush, Jenkins will have a definitive role in the special teams this season.