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March 4, 2013

Comparison: VT's DB Classes

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In the past 12 recruiting classes for Virginia Tech, the class of 2013 included, there's been only one player who ranked higher overall than five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller from Good Counsel (Md.).

Fuller, who finished at No. 9 in the Rivals100, is second only to former quarterback Marcus Vick (No. 8 in 2002) as the highest-rated players to sign with the Hokies in the Rivals.com rankings era, which began in 2002.

The class of 2013 was a good one for Virginia Tech to pull in defensive backs and it did, signing five of them, not counting "athletes" who will play in the Hokies' secondary. Aside from Fuller, four-star safety Holland Fisher, the second-highest defensive back pledge, also signed. But is this class the best ever for defensive backs and Virginia Tech?

It all begins with Fuller, who will continue a family legacy with the Hokies. The youngest of four brothers, Fuller's other three, Vincent, Corey and Kyle all made their way to Virginia Tech.

Vincent, who starred at free safety and cornerback for the Hokies from 2001-04, went on to play six seasons with the Tennessee Titans before brief stints with the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots in 2011. Corey, who just finished his brief college career at Virginia Tech as a wide receiver, is awaiting the NFL Draft, while soon-to-be senior Kyle Fuller will be the anchor of the secondary this fall.

Fuller, an Army All-American, was ranked as high as No. 3 in the Rivals100 last summer and finished as the No. 2 cornerback in the country, just behind Florida signee [db]Vernon Hargreaves III[/db], who vaulted to No. 2 overall after a strong finish.

There's little question that Fuller is college-ready and has been. Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell has consistently called Fuller one of the best he's seen at the position.

"Kendall Fuller might not be the fastest cornerback in the country, but I will tell you this, he's the most instinctual," Farrell said in analyzing Fuller. "He's just a natural at his position. He gets on a guy's hip, doesn't fall for double moves, very fluid and smooth out there, plays with such confidence that he knows he's not gonna get beaten and his ball skills are outstanding. He just knows how to make plays."


Kendall Fuller, Our Lady Of Good Counsel (Md.) 2013: No. 9 in the Rivals100, No. 2 cornerback, No. 2 in Maryland

Holland Fisher, Manchester (Va.), 2013: No. 83 in the Rivals100, No. 10 safety, No. 6 in Virginia

Jayron Hosley Atlantic (Fla.), 2009: No. 139 in the Rivals250, No. 11 cornerback, No. 25 in Florida

Donaldven Manning, Miami Central HS (Fla.), 2012: No. 140 in the Rivals250, No. 11 cornerback, No. 27 in Florida

Kyshoen Jarrett, East Stroudsburg South (Pa.), 2011: No. 175 in the Rivals250, No. 18 cornerback, No. 5 in Pennsylvania

Nick Dew, First Colonial (Va.), 2010: No. 201 in the Rivals250, No. 15 cornerback, No. 6 in Virginia

Cris Hill, Highland Springs (Va.), 2007: Member of Rivals250, No. 17 cornerback, No. 6 in Virginia

Fuller also has a great chance to play immediately for the Hokies, but he got a boost earlier this year because of an unfortunate incident. Soon-to-be senior cornerback Antone Exum tore his right ACL playing pick-up basketball in January and will miss at least another five months.

Virginia Tech has been known to many as "DBU," producing a number of top defensive backs that has included DeAngelo Hall and Victor Harris. But until Fuller, the next-highest ranked player coming out of high school was Jayron Hosley, who was No. 139 in the Rivals100 and the No. 11 cornerback in the country in 2009. Of course, Hosley was drafted in the third round last year by the New York Giants and played in 12 games, finishing with 40 tackles and an interception.

In a year where Fuller is the highest-rated defensive back to sign with the Hokies, it's equally amazing that they reeled in their second-highest rated player as well. Fisher, No. 83 in the Rivals100 was the first commit in the class of 2013 for Virginia Tech.

Fisher, a hard-hitting bull of a safety, was an Under Armour All-American and could also pay immediate dividends. At 6'1" 196 pounds, he's a very physically imposing safety.

"His strength is not backpedaling and press coverage, his strength is actually playing center field or playing that strong safety position where he comes down and he's moving forward and he closes on the football," Farrell said. "He's got very good instincts, he hones in on the ball very well and he's a strong closer. His ball skills are better than advertised, too."

With Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner still manning the safety spots, it'll take more work by Fisher to crack the starting spot. Unlike Fuller, who could be starting alongside his brother Kyle if he has the strong fall camp many expect of him.

Joining Fisher and Fuller as classified defensive backs in the Hokies' signing class are three-star Brandon Facyson, the No. 54 cornerback who was an early enrollee and will play this spring, three-star cornerback Charles Clark and three-star safety Anthony Shegog. By enrolling early, Facyson might have the next best chance to compete for early playing time.

The best comparison to this class might be the 2011 class with Jarrett, ranked No. 175 in the Rivals250 and four-star Ronny VanDyke, the No. 21 safety in the country leading four defensive backs. Of course, VanDyke has been moved to WHIP linebacker where he's the likely starter with a very bright future ahead of him.

But as far as star-power, it's hard to argue any of the Hokies' previous classes since 2002 overtaking the current class.


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