Virginia Tech’s spring practice is fast approaching, with drills beginning March 27. To prepare you for what should be a highly-anticipated spring session, I’ll be breaking down the Hokies by position groups over the next week and a half.
Read the previous installments by clicking on the links: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line and linebackers. Today, it’s time for the defensive backs.
The 2012 numbers
– Kyshoen Jarrett: 83 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 4 PBU, FF
– Detrick Bonner: 60 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 10 PBU, 1 FR
– Kyle Fuller: 52 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 5 PBU, FF
– Antone Exum: 48 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 5 INT, 16 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF
– Michael Cole: 43 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR
– Desmond Frye: 5 tackles, 1 PBU
– Donaldven Manning: 4 tackles, 1 INT
– Donovan Riley: 4 tackles, 1 TFL
– Antone Exum, r-Sr.
– Kyle Fuller, Sr.
– Carl Jackson, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Nick Bush, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Chris Caver, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Donaldven Manning, So.
– Donovan Riley, So.
– Davion Tookes, r-Fr.
– Brandon Facyson, Fr.
– Detrick Bonner, r-Jr.
– Desmond Frye, So.
– Scot Rolin, r-So. (walk-on)
– Greg Jones, r-Fr. (walk-on)
– Zach Snell, r-Fr. (walk-on)
– Kyshoen Jarrett, Jr.
– T.J. Shaw, r-So. (walk-on)
– Cequan Jefferson, Fr.
– Kendall Fuller, Fr.
– Charles Clark, Fr.
– Holland Fisher, Fr.
– Anthony Shegog, Fr.
How will the secondary react to losing one major contributor for good (Cole) and another for possibly the early part of the season (Exum)?
The star attraction
It would have been Exum, had he not torn his ACL in January. That’s not to throw dirt on his 2013 season — he’ll be back at some point — but it’s unclear at this point when that might be. I certainly could have gone with Jarrett, who was second on the team in tackles last year, but I’ll pick Fuller. The cornerback is back for his senior season, hoping to put a so-so junior campaign behind him. Fuller was banged up most of the year. He had a shoulder issue early and some other nagging problems that limited his practice time, leading to some struggles. Now that he’s had time to get healthy, he’s poised for a big senior year. Last season was really the first time he’s played as a cover corner for an entire year, so it was still a developmental year. This season, he’s back at the same spot and should be better prepared for it. With younger brother Kendall coming in this summer, Kyle will certainly want to show him how things are done at the college level too.
With Exum’s future uncertain, the biggest battle will be for the starting corner spot he’ll leave vacant until his return. This spring, it’ll likely be Riley and Manning battling for reps, although newcomer Facyson and redshirt freshman Tookes could get in the mix as well. Riley got some playing time late in the year, although it wasn’t substantial. Manning figured to be the No. 3 cornerback early in the season, but a few rough introduction moments and some off-field issues slowed his development. Tech hopes he’s put that behind him. If nobody seizes the job, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kendall Fuller, the Hokies’ first five-star recruit since Tyrod Taylor, make a push once he arrives this summer. But remember, he won’t get the benefit of 15 spring practices. That’s a major leg up for the guys who are already here.
The new guys
It’s a big class of defensive backs, one that was needed to replenish the ranks. Fuller and Fisher (provided he qualifies) are the big names in the group, a pair of top-100 prospect who recruiting analysts think can be game-changers at the college level. But beyond those two, Tech’s class has some intriguing prospects. Several sites have Jefferson, a three-star recruit, as a sleeper. Shegog was the Fredericksburg area’s player of the year. Clark and Facyson are both solid players who coaches seemed confident could step in and play. Given the attrition on the back end of the defense in recent years, landing a class of DBs like this was important.
The wild card
It’s Exum. His rehab timetable right after surgery was 6-8 months. That would put his return either at the beginning of August or the start of October. Obviously, that’s a huge range in the college football calendar. He could either be back for the Alabama game or not until Week 6 against North Carolina. And that’s assuming that everything in his rehab goes to plan. There’s no reason to believe it won’t, but you can never tell with injuries (remember Tariq Edwards‘ lingering problems last season?). It’s why Tech has to go forward this spring assuming that Exum won’t be ready for the opener. If he does heal in time, it’d be a big boost. No one knows exactly how effective he’ll be coming off the injury, but Exum seems determined to do everything he can to make sure he’s back in time and be a factor.
Fuller and Jarrett have been the only two players on the roster to earn five effort shirts in five attempts at the team’s 6 a.m. workouts this week.