Kendall Fuller (6-foot, 190 pounds) was a freshman All-American selection last season, when he was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing with six interceptions, 11 pass breakups and 58 tackles. As well as he played as a true freshman, he told the Roanoke (Va.) Times there is room for improvement.
"I think last year at times, I would get too lazy and give up a play," he said. "Coach (Bud) Foster and Coach (Torrian) Gray -- they always talk about if you get 'laxed up,' one play can cost you the game. So just being tuned into every single play and just try not to give up too many plays."
Foster, who has been Virginia Tech's defensive coordinator for 20 years, and Gray, who has been the Hokies' secondary coach for nine seasons, said Fuller has a high ceiling. Both said San Diego Chargers corner Brandon Flowers -- who was a second-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2008 NFL Draft -- was the best defensive back the Hokies have had, and that Fuller has that kind of potential.
"I'm hoping in a couple years, he's going to be the best one," Foster said. "He's a lot like Brandon Flowers, a lot like his brother. He's a little bigger, a little more physical, I think, than Kyle. ... So he's kind of in that line with Brandon, being a physical guy at the point of attack. But he has a great IQ."
Gray also mentioned Fuller's football smarts.
"Kendall has a gifted skill set, and he's so smart mentally," Gray said. "But he's going to continue to get smarter mentally if he's able to still slow the game down more."
One thing to expect from Fuller this season is more man-to-man coverage. His use in that style of play grew as last season progressed, and he told the Washington Post he is looking forward to being placed on an island even more this season. Gray told the newspaper that was a possibility.
"If you got (high-level) corners or DBs, you can do so many different things to help you from a scheme standpoint, especially with the varying offenses we see," he told the Post. "If you can take certain parts of the field or guys out of the offense's repertoire, it makes the game so much easier."
Foster told the Roanoke newspaper that Fuller had "an outstanding summer, and he's having an outstanding camp. Sometimes DBs -- you don't notice them because nobody is throwing to them or he's taking everything away. That's what he's doing right now."
Fuller isn't Virginia Tech's only high-level defensive back. The Hokies' starting quartet of Fuller and Brandon Facyson (6-2, 189) at corner, Kyshoen Jarrett (5-11, 200) at strong safety and Detrick Bonner (6-1, 206) at free safety might be the nation's best; at the least, it's a top-three unit. Facyson had five picks as a true freshman last season, while Bonner and Jarrett are seniors who began their careers at corner before moving to safety. Each is heading into his third season as a starter.