Since going out with an ankle injury versus North Carolina during the early part of the first half, senior safety Kacy Rodgers hasn’t been in the Miami Hurricanes defensive back field hardly at all. And it’s showed. Rodgers was terrorizing opposing offenses early on and enjoyed a great couple of games prior to his injury in Miami’s sixth game.
In the first seven games that Miami played which were all wins, the defensive secondary surrendered only 6.2 yards per passing attempt. In the past two weeks facing Florida Sate and Virginia Tech, Miami’s pass defense surrendered 11.5 yards per attempt. There’s no direct correlation between Rodgers absence and the passing yards surrendered (over 300 a game since he went down) but one can only hope there is. Especially heading into a critical Saturday match up versus ACC Coastal opponent, the Duke Blue Devils.
“It took me a couple of weeks or so to get my ankle back but I feel like it’s in a good position right now and I’m definitely ready to play,” Rodgers said earlier this week in a sit down interview with CaneINsider.
He says him not seeing the field much, though he’s been dressed the past two games has been a product of not showing he was really ready to go in practice.
“The coaches see me practice so they’re not going to put someone in there that’s not ready so obviously if they see in my play and my practice that I’m not ready, they’re not going to put me out there. So it’s my job to get myself back to a position to be out there as much as I can.”
How does he plan to do that?
“Just stay rehabbing, stay making more plays in practice. The coaches get to see me before the game in practice so definitely just keep practicing hard that way I can be out there on the field.”
No 22. Kacy Rodgers in practice
Rodgers had been out on the field a lot. He opened the year with a huge sack against Florida Atlantic, a game in which the Hurricanes defense didn’t give up a touchdown. Against stiffer competition, he also thrived as he notched four tackles against Florida during a game where the Hurricane secondary was on center stage. He also forced a fumble and accumulated 12 tackles through five games. But then he went down with an injury early against the Tarheels on a Thursday night and hasn’t been the same since. Neither has the Hurricane defense.
“We’ve just got to be able to communicate more and make sure we’re on the same page. Especially when on the back end because if you mess up on the back end, that’s six points. We definitely got to communicate more and I think we will.”
Rodgers has grown tremendously since arriving at Miami. The son of Miami Dolphin’s defensive line coach, Kacy Rodgers Sr., Rodgers is living up to the bloodlines of his NFL family. It started with more focus and a lot of hard work.
“I think it started in the summer because I had to sit out the spring with a knee surgery so really just looking back in the spring and watching my old film and looking at things I could improve on. I went through a lot of summer stuff, 7 on 7, running the show out there. I took the liberty of running the show and being vocal, something I didn’t do very much last year and it paid off. So I’m glad the work I put in during the off season is showing up on the field.”
As a senior, Rodgers knows his team still has a lot to play for though they had several disappointing losses in the past two weeks. Duke is sure to be a test they cannot over look because there is so much riding on Saturday’s game.
“We know this is a big week, so preparation is something we’ve always been big on so no matter what we’re always going to prepare. I always prepare for every game like it’s my last so this one is no different. My ankle, I feel great so I’m ready to go.”
In his absence, the Hurricanes have relied on converted quarterback A.J. Highsmith. He’s really taken on a leadership position in the secondary and Rodgers is high on his progress.
“A.J. is a good leader, he’s a good player. He’s paid his dues and bidded his time so I’m happy to just go out there and if I’m not playing as much, I’m glad to see him play. He’s been through a lot since he’s been here and it’s his time to shine so I’m happy for him.
Much of what Rodgers wants to provide upon his true return to the lineup, which he hopes will be this week, is the ball hawking ways the defense came to be known for through the first five games of the season.
“Definitely, that’s one thing that we focus on our defense, getting turnovers. Getting the ball back on our side. We haven’t done that maybe as much in the last couple weeks so that’s definitely something we have to get back to because that was the focal point of our success earlier in the year. If we can get back to that, get back to our roots and our foundation we’ll be fine.”
The Hurricanes have a lot of respect for the Blue Devils who come in riding a five-game winning streak and looking to knock off the second consecutive ranked opponent they’ll face in as many weeks.
“Duke’s 7-2 just like we are, they’re a great team coached by a great coach. It was a close game last year so I’m sure this game is going to be close. We’re ready for a dogfight and I know they are, so it’s going to be a great game.”
Overall, Rodgers is focused. He set a goal to leave the University of Miami in a better place than when he arrived. Going to a bowl game is one of those things he’s now focused on and he’s emphasizing that to his entire team.
“I want to go out better than I came in and I think we’re doing that. I think we’re on the right way there so, coming in we didn’t win a bowl game and I’d like to leave winning a bowl game. So I’d like to leave better than I started and I think we’re going to do that.”
The Hurricanes play Duke Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU in Durham.
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