Off-topic: I’ve been gone for the past few weeks for my wedding and honeymoon (thank you), but now the site will be charging full-bore toward the start of college football season. Appreciate everyone for continuing to stop by — even during my absence — and rest assured, we’ve got plenty of content set for the next few weeks.
Less than three weeks until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Kyle Fuller doesn’t have to carry this group all season — there’s plenty of senior leaders on the Virginia Tech defense to help him out (more so than last year even) — but his year sure won’t start easily. On top of facing a loaded Alabama team on kickoff weekend, he’ll be without fellow star corner Antone Exum for at least a couple weeks (if not more) while he recovers from an ACL injury. So I’m willing to cut Fuller some slack in the opening parts of the year. But after a less-than-stellar 2012, he’s got to improve drastically in order to regain that NFL Draft glimmer his resume once had.
Back in 2011, Fuller looked like one of the top defensive back-types (he didn’t play pure corner then) in the country. He’d recorded 14.5 tackles for loss from the corner position (pretty phenomenal), while applying significant quarterback pressure and still breaking up passes in the secondary. But in 2012, that production completely dropped off. Of course, he was still a quality player for the Hokies. It’s just that Exum stood head-and-shoulders above him in terms of field presence and statistics. Fuller’s interceptions were less dynamic than they’d been previously, and he only recorded three tackles for loss (a very steep drop from 2011). Despite Tech putting in another top-25 effort in terms of passing defense, there’s a lot of room for improvement for this team in that department — and it starts with Fuller regaining his previous form.
As the Virginian-Pilot points out, he’s not that far removed from 2011. He’s still got some room to improve his coverage skills, but that aggression that saw him in the backfield on a regular basis is very much still there. Fuller has size (6’0″ and 189 pounds) and speed that allow him to be a lethal pass-rushing force, and with another year operating as the leader of the secondary, he’s got a great chance to meet the high ceiling set for him by some. If Virginia Tech is going to overcome their depth issue at the cornerback position, he’ll need to be as close to perfect as possible in the season’s early going. The NFL Draft talk will come after the season, but right now, Fuller’s got a golden opportunity to excel for the Hokies.