Virginia Tech true freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller arrived on campus amid a ton of hype. In this case, believe the hype.
Fuller (5-feet-11, 193 pounds) was a consensus national top-20 prospect out of the Baltimore area in the 2013 recruiting class, and he is the fourth Fuller brother to play for the Hokies. He also looks as if he will be the best.
Last week, Hokies coaches were impressed enough with Fuller to anoint him as the main nickelback; this week, he has progressed to the point that he now is expected to start at corner when the Hokies open the season against Alabama in Atlanta. One of his brothers, Kyle, is the Hokies' other starting corner.
Kendall Fuller, who runs well and was lauded by recruiting analysts for his great instincts, would start instead of star senior Antone Exum, who seems likely to miss at least the first month of the season with a knee injury suffered in January.
Secondary coach Torrian Gray, himself a former Hokies corner, has been blown away by Fuller's rapid progress. Gray said coaches wanted Fuller to first understand what was needed at nickelback; he quickly grasped that and was tried at corner. He quickly grasped what was needed there, too.
"It's like, 'Wow.' And you understand that he has his brothers here and everything, but it's still amazing that there just wasn't a lot of mental errors," Gray told the Roanoke (Va.) Times. "So I was like, whoa, I think he can handle it and he can handle it well."
When the Hokies do use a nickel package, fellow true freshman Brandon Facyson (6-2, 188) would come on at corner and Kendall Fuller would move to nickelback.
"Now, we can go out there versus Alabama and they may really show that they're true freshmen, which they are," Gray told the Times. "But I feel ... comfortable with their mental aptitude that they will grasp it and hopefully perform at the level that we need them to perform at."
It has helped the Hokies' depth at corner that sophomore Donovan Riley (5-11, 204) has performed well in camp. Going into camp, Riley was seen as strictly a special-teams guy, but he now is in the mix for legit playing time as a backup.