Miami will open the season in the not so distant future, and to help you prepare for what is sure to be a great year, we are back to preview each position on the team. We will let you know who is back, who is new, and how each player projects for the 2013 season.
I would say it's been since Kenny Phillips that our last TRUE game changing safety was on the field. Our last groups of safeties lacked that instinct that Phillips possessed. That nose for the ball that helped cause turnovers and highlights throughout the field. I believe we now have those players on this roster and will be a big reason for getting this defense turned around (even though i will say I was wrong about Ray-Ray Armstrong being next best thing since the late Sean Taylor)
For those that follow SOTU you probably have read our Corner Backs Position Preview (if not click here) and know of our poor pass defense from last season. We now get into the other half of the secondary with our Safeties and what to look forward to. Just like the corners there is plenty to be optimistic about here as well. There is a good balance of experience and potential at this position. Even though last year might not have showcased it, I am confident our next true play makers are on this lineup.
Deon Bush / Sophomore / 6'1" , 200 / Miami, Fl.
2012 stats: 34 Tackles, 3 PBUs, 3 FF's
The Miami Hurricanes newcomer of the year (awarded to him by the team at the end-of-season banquet) was my standout player on defense last season. Bush started 6 of the 10 games he played in 2012. His 3 forced fumbles tied for second in the ACC, two of those fumbles came in the heart breaking loss Notre Dame. For a freshman I felt like Deon played above his experience and always seemed to be around the ball. His only downfall was his lack of size for his style of play. Bush is aggressive, smart, and plays with reckless abandon everything you would want in your safety. The problem was his body wasn't ready for that type of impact. Deon missed 2 games last season due to a shoulder injury from the Virginia Tech game. Deon is beefed up to just over 200 pounds this spring and If he stays healthy I see no reason why Bush isn't one of of our starting safeties and surpasses his production from 2012.
A.J Highsmith / Senior / 6'0" , 220 / Missouri City, TX.
2012 stats: 32 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 4 PBUs and 1 INT.
If 2011 was Highsmiths year to learn the safety position, 2012 he did a good job putting it all in motion. Highsmith started 7 of 12 games in 2012 and It was his breakout game against NC State where he posted a career-high 8 tackles, 1 INT, and 1 fumble. His consistency on the field was one of the few bright spots for the secondary. With injuries to Telemaque and Bush it was good to have a senior in the back controlling things. My only knock on Highsmith is that he seems at times to be a step behind or too slow getting to the ball but, again that could be due to it being his first full season really playing safety. As far as production for 2013 I see no reason why he doesn't improve from last year.
Kacy Rodgers II / Senior / 6'2" , 212 / Southlake, TX.
2012 stats: 54 tackles, 2 PBUs
Rodgers was a pleasant surprise for the 2012 season. He recorded 54 tackles 40 of which were solo. Rodgers was used not only at safety but also at the nickel spot to help cover tight ends. Against Boston College Rodgers had a career high 8 tackles, 7 of which were solo. Rodgers has really come a long way from his freshman season and his next step now in his development is to help in the turnover department.
Rayshawn Jenkins / Sophomore / 6'1" , 215 / St. Petersburg, FL.
2012 stats: 27 tackles, 3 PBUs, 1 INT
Whatever expectations people might have had for Rayshawn Jenkins I'm sure he surpassed every single one of them. Now you might look at his numbers and think what's the big deal? But it's the games that he started while Bush sat out with an injury that left me most impressed. It was the 8 tackles against UVA, the 7 tackles AND the INT against USF. He had just over half his tackles in the two games he started meaning given enough playing time I think this kid might be a play maker. I'm eager to see what chaos the duo of Bush and Jenkins can cause given enough time on the field together.
Nantambu Akil-Fentress / Junior / 5'9" , 200 / Nashville, TN.
2012 stats: 14 tackles
The 2012 Albert Bentley Award co-recipient for the most valuable walk-on, Fentress was a major player on special teams with his biggest game coming against NC State where he recorded 5 tackles. The former high school linebacker most likely won't receive much if any playing time at safety but will most likely continue his role as a special teams contributor.
Jordan Tolson / Junior / 6'1" , 195 / Inglewood, CA.
2012 stats: n/a
Since the Naples scrimmage Tolson has become my favorite unknown player on the team. Tolson only played 2 games in 2012 and recorded no stats but this spring he made sure he was noticed. Big hits in Naples and the spring game were almost the norm whenever he got on the field. For the little I saw of Tolson he definitely was fun to watch. All that being said with the depth we have at safety he won't be getting much playing time. Look for Tolson to contribute mainly on special teams.
Jamal Carter / Freshman / 6'1" , 190 / Miami, FL.
2012 stats: n/a
The hard hitting 4-star recruit from Southridge Carter is our Safety of the future. As much as we all would love to see his intensity and hard hitting ability on the field, I just can't see him getting passed FOUR possible starters on the depth chart. If that is the case I would seriously consider him using his redshirt now to keep four years of play time while Bush and Jenkins hold the starting spots this season. Again this is just my opinion, I think it would be nice actually get back to letting kid develop for a year instead of getting thrown directly into the fire 3 months out of high school. If Carter does play the year expect him to be just a special teams guy.
I end with this. For us to be better now and for the future Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins need to start, All year. What we did last year with a 3 to 4 man rotation at safety was nice but it did not help with the chemistry with the secondary. Lets get back to best player plays and have two safeties in the back that put fear in quarterbacks hearts every time they throw the ball. I'm sorry for Highsmith and Rodgers but Bush and Jenkins are our present and future and there should be no reason to hold them back. I'm just hoping Al and Coach D get to read this and agree.