The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 13: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
The big question from Virginia Tech’s offseason secondary shuffle was if Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, two cornerbacks at heart, had the physicality and instincts to play safety. They seemed to answer the question on one play during a spring scrimmage.
When wide receiver Kevin Asante ran a route across the middle, Bonner leveled him with a bone-rattling hit just as the ball arrived, popping it into the air. Jarrett snatched it for an interception and took it the other way.
“As you saw, they’re pretty physical,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster beamed afterward.
Still, Bonner and Jarrett, the only new starters on the defensive side of the ball, will be the biggest concern for a group that should be solid everywhere else.
Replacing Eddie Whitley at free safety is no small task. Coaches still marvel at how he directed the back of the defense by the latter part of his career.
For Bonner, a 6-foot, 186-pound redshirt sophomore who stated at rover but ended up at free safety by the end of spring, it’s gaining that kind of knowledge of the system that will be the biggest hurdle. He took a good first step this spring, vocally taking charge of the secondary and earning most improved player honors of the defensive players.
Jarrett, who ended up at rover by the end of the spring, didn’t take to the transition as quickly as Bonner, but coaches were still encouraged by his progress. A highly regarded cornerback who was a late addition to the 2011 class, the 5-foot-10, 188-pound Jarrett played sparingly as a true freshman, getting only 25 snaps on the regular defense. Elevating him to a starting role at an unfamiliar position could be a risk, but the Hokies felt it was the best way to get their four best defensive backs on the field.
If things don’t work out, Tech still has options. Exum, obviously, can play both free safety and rover. Bonner and Jarrett have their cornerback past to fall back on.
But Foster and the defensive coaches seemed to like this arrangement. Bonner and Jarrett aren’t prototypical safeties, but they are rangy and can cover, two skills the Hokies prioritize on the back end. If they can make a smooth transition to their new spots, it eliminates one of the only question marks about the defense.
Coming Tuesday: His nickname originated from when his 17-month-old brother tried to call him “That Boy.”
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
- No. 16: Cody Journell, junior kicker
- No. 15: Brent Benedict and David Wang, offensive guards
- No. 14: Dyrell Roberts, senior wide receiver