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Virginia Tech's Antone Exum ready to excel at combine

With big cornerbacks all the rage in the NFL, Virginia Tech's Antone Exum is an intriguing prospect whose NFL Scouting Combine appearance will be important.

Exum, listed at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds by Virginia Tech, needs to show he is healthy. He missed all but three games in 2013, his senior season: He missed the first seven games because he was recovering from ACL surgery, then missed the final three games with a sprained ankle.

Exum played safety in his first two seasons with the Hokies, then moved to corner as a junior in 2012 and immediately stood out. He had 48 tackles, five interceptions, 16 pass breakups and two forced fumbles and looked as if he would be one of the top two or three corners nationally in 2013. But he suffered a torn ACL in January 2013 while playing pickup basketball. He told the Roanoke (Va.) Times he is healthy for the first time in more than a year.

"I'm feeling great," Exum said. "I'm ready to compete in Indianapolis [at the combine] and just show what I have."

Exum said he knows he has a lot to prove.

"A lot of guys really haven't seen me in person in a long time," Exum told the Times. "So them seeing me run, them seeing me put times and numbers down, and them seeing me also get out there and do position drills like a corner -- I think that that will make me more accepting to that position."

Some analysts feel he is best-suited to play safety, and while Exum said he has "the skill set to play [corner] at a very high level," he does realize his versatility is a plus.

"I can play corner, I can play safety and I can play nickel -- basically all the positions on the back end," he said. "That makes me that much more valuable."

Exum's draft stock has taken a big hit because of the injuries. At one time, he was seen as a potential first-round pick; now he looks more like a mid-round pick. Still, when healthy in 2012, he was one of the most physical corners in the nation. Exum doesn't have elite speed, but he is fast enough to be effective in press coverage. At times, he was too aggressive in 2012; the flipside is that his aggressiveness was one reason he was so effective.

If Exum is back to his old self, he could be a great value pick in the middle rounds.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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