At one point, Virginia Tech hoped to have star cornerback Antone Exum back for Thursday's game with Georgia Tech. That's not going to happen; Exum seems likely to miss at least one more game as he recovers from knee surgery. But his loss has been mitigated by strong play from senior Kyle Fuller.
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Exum, who had ACL and microfracture surgery in February after injuring his knee in a pickup basketball game, will meet with doctors either late this week or early next week. If all checks out ok, he could return for the Oct. 5 game against North Carolina.
Fuller (6 feet, 194 pounds), though, has made sure Exum really hasn't been missed by increasing his level of play. He is a four-year starter for the Hokies, at corner and at nickelback/linebacker. While he has struggled in coverage in the past, that hasn't been an issue this season. Generally considered one of the top 10 senior corners in the nation, Fuller has one interception (against Alabama's A.J. McCarron) and six pass breakups. He has also helped the Hokies rank sixth in the nation in pass defense (136.8 yards per game) and tied for second in interceptions (nine).
Fuller, who has always been aggressive and physical in run support, has made 12 tackles this season. He blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown in Saturday's triple-overtime win over Marshall.
Fuller, who consistently has been timed in the mid-4.4 range in the 40-yard dash, has five interceptions and 24 pass breakups in his career, and teammates have praised his ability to stay even-keeled. He played through groin and shoulder injuries without missing a game last season.
His oldest brother, Vincent, is a former Virginia Tech star who played seven years in the NFL as a defensive back. Another brother, Corey, was a receiver at Virginia Tech and selected by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. The best Fuller of them all might be Kendall, a true freshman corner who signed with Virginia Tech in February and has replaced Exum in the starting lineup.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.