Both played high school football in Texas, have fathers with jobs in the NFL and at times are confused for one another by teammates because they resemble each other.
Juniors A..J. Highsmith and Kacy Rodgers certainly have a lot in common. But theres one difference at the moment: Rodgers has the jersey and the starting job Highsmith covets at safety.
When I ended the spring as the starter I told myself [Ive] got to work through the summer to keep that job and today when I saw I had a black jersey, it put a smile on my face, Rodgers said. My hard work paid off. Hopefully I can keep it going.
The battle to keep the black jerseys or earn them began Friday at the University of Miami, but not until typical summer thunderstorms delayed the first fall practice until the sun was on its way down.
Al Goldens football team finally sloshed its way onto a wet Greentree Practice Field shortly after 6 p.m., wearing shorts and helmets for the first of 25 practices before the season kicks off Sept. 1 at Boston College.
Among those out there: defensive end Anthony Chickillo and special teams coordinator Micheal Barrow, both alleged in the latest Yahoo! Sports report last month as being rule-breakers in the ongoing NCAA investigation into improper gifts and benefits that were given to players and recruits at Miami (Chickillo declined comment Friday because of the investigation but is confident he will play this season).
Not out there: former highly-touted safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, who was booted off the team last month and whose vacancy has opened the door for Rodgers and Highsmith to partake in one of the more interesting position battles this fall.
Highsmith (6-0, 204) called it a very unfortunate situation that Armstrong is gone because they were friends. Rodgers (6-2, 213) said he was sad because I looked up to Ray. But now, both are zeroed in on trying to fill a huge hole in the Hurricanes secondary and earn the spot alongside three-year starter Vaughn Telemaque.
You can never have a leader especially a safety make a lot of mistakes. I think the guy who makes the least mistakes, the guy who is most consistent and who makes the most plays disrupts the ball, gets turnovers and forces turnovers will win the job, Highsmith said. Consistency is going to be a big part of it.
But neither Highsmith nor Rodgers has played a lot at safety for Miami.
Rodgers, whose father Kacy Sr. is an assistant with the Miami Dolphins, got in for about 20 snaps last season. He finished with three tackles all on special teams. Before signing with Miami in 2010, Rodgers said he only played cornerback at nationally ranked Southlake Carroll High. He has been learning how to play safety since.
Ive gotten a lot better, but I dont think I can stop now, Rodgers said. Theres so much more room for improvement and Im excited to try and do that. Just the physical aspect and running the show [has been the biggest adjustment]. The safety is the quarterback of the defense. If you dont know it, its going to show. You definitely have to know your calls and get everybody on the same page.
Highsmith, whose father Alonzo is a former Hurricane and currently works in the Green Bay Packers front office, spent his first two seasons at Miami serving as the backup quarterback to Jacory Harris before switching to defense last season. Highsmith said he got in for roughly 80 to 100 snaps behind Armstrong, Telemaque and JoJo Nicolas last season, finishing with 12 tackles in 11 games.