Last year, the two games that kept the Hokies out of national championship contention were two blowout losses at the hands of Clemson.
Each game was riddled with missed tackles and blown coverages, leading to big plays allowed in the secondary. Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen had a field day running through the last line of defense.
If Tech’s defensive backs had weathered the storm, the tale of 2011 may have told a totally different
This spring, even though many players are returning, the secondary is currently “under construction.”
In their time here, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and secondary coach Torrian Gray have made a habit of taking high school defensive backs and turning them into collegiate stars and even NFL
Kam Chancellor, Brandon Flowers, Rashad Carmichael and DeAngelo Hall are just a few that left Blacksburg and enjoyed success in the NFL, while Jayron Hosley looks to be next in line. But with the team’s top corner leaving, it’s raising some questions as to how the secondary will perform next season. Hosley exited the ACC Championship game early, and when he stepped off the field, the floodgates opened.
Foster and Gray haven’t been subtle in switching players’ positions during spring practice in an attempt to get things back on track. Along with Hosley’s early departure, safety Eddie Whitley will be graduating, so some players have been taken out of their natural element to fill in the gaps
Gray is optimistic his players will be able to adapt on the fly.
“I think the players have bought into it so now it’s just going out and right now we are just committed to working this way through the spring,” he said. “I really think we’ll have a chance for this to work
The switch that had some heads spinning was Antone Exum’s jump from safety to cornerback. Exum started much of last season at safety and even earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors. But the corner position beckoned and Exum answered.
Standing at 219 pounds, Exum may be a bit large for a corner, but that added size may work to his benefit. Not many receivers will be able to handle his strength and physicality, but it remains to be known if that will make up for his flaws. Lack of experience and speed may befall him to smaller, shiftier receivers. Exum claims it’s been a smooth transition.
“I’ve never been a full-time corner, but I played nickel corner as a freshman and was very comfortable,” he said. “I’m not going to go into it thinking that I’m not going to excel at it. I still feel comfortable out there.”
Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner were expected to fill the gaps at corner and safety, left by Hosley and Whitley. But they too have had their positions switched to free safety and rover, respectively.
Each saw valuable time on the field last season and could be prepped to be regulars in the starting 11 if they adapt to their new positions with success. Simply stated, both have plenty of potential but are unproven.
Jarrett is a natural corner, but excelled in coverage and hits harder than his 188-pound frame may suggest. His style may suit him better for free safety, and if he learns the cerebral part of the position, he could very well be a force on the back end.