Over the past decade, no position on the Virginia Tech football team has been as consistently good as cornerback.
Rashad Carmichael, DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Flowers and Eric Green are just a few cornerbacks who took their success with the Hokies to the NFL, giving the Hokies a reputation of pumping out elite cornerbacks.
Jayron Hosley will likely join those men in the NFL at the end of this season, but there is a man behind him that could very well do the same a few years down the road: Kyle Fuller.
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“He’s one of those guys that has taken the next step,” said Bud Foster, Tech’s defensive coordinator. “I think he’s really playing very, very well.”
Fuller enters this season as the starter at field corner, despite being in just his second year in Foster’s defense.
Though just a true sophomore, Fuller doesn’t go into the season without experience. He was one of two true freshmen to see the field in 2010 — mainly because of his physicality and mental toughness.
“We do a tackling drill the first day we’re in pads, and he came up, and from a physical stand point, I was like, ‘Wow,’” said Torrian Gray, the Hokies defensive backs coach. “Usually, you can see it in a kid’s demeanor, and as more practices went on, I said, ‘OK, this kid has got something to him.’”
Fuller went on to start six games last season, mostly at nickel back, as Foster switched up his basic formations after two games because of personnel issues.
“It took a couple extra meetings and things like that,” Gray said, “but he gave us the best chance to win in the circumstances we had last year.”
With Carmichael now in the NFL, Fuller moved into the starting lineup opposite Hosley, and to ensure he keeps the tradition of excellence at cornerback going, Fuller changed his mindset going into this season.
“Last year, my whole thing was that I was a play away,” he said. “I had two guys — two good players — in front of me, but I had to prepare myself so I could be ready when I played. But this year, taking that starting role, I had to prepare to be a starter — knowing the offense, being able to play, being focused and everything overall.”
The work has seemingly paid off so far. Though just through one game, Fuller has made an impression on the coaching staff. Against Appalachian State, Fuller had two tackles for a loss, including a great open field tackle on third and five to force a punt. He also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
“His approach to the game is mature — he takes it seriously,” Gray said. “He studies the game, he takes corrections well, and he really had a productive fall camp. So, it isn’t a surprise at all that he played a great first game.”
Despite moving into a starting role, Fuller has kept his duties on special teams and become part of the Hokies’ tradition of Beamerball.
“I love special teams,” Fuller said. “Some guys might not like it — some might like taking a play off — but I try to go into it like, you have the ability to make a play that could be the difference in the game.”
Though it’s the second corner spot, field corner for Tech is perhaps the most frequently challenged position in the secondary because most quarterbacks are afraid of throwing at the more established corner.
“It makes it tougher because guys don’t want to throw to (Hosley), so it brings the action (to me),” Fuller said, “but I’m ready for that challenge.”