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August 15, 2011

Fuller one of many excellent players in what should be a good 2011 secondary

By: Jimmy Robertson

For years, Kyle Fuller was in the shadow of his older brother, Vinnie, who enjoyed a terrific career at Tech and now plays for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Now, Fuller, the projected starter at field corner, sits in the shadow of Jayron Hosley, Tech’s boundary corner who led the nation in interceptions last season and earned All-America honors.

Fuller hopes to step out of the shadow, though, this upcoming season and make a name for himself, and he figures to get plenty of opportunities in what should be a strong, talented Tech secondary. Hosley’s skills and reputation as a ball hawk should result in Fuller seeing plenty of action coming at him.

Kyle Fuller

“That happened the year before with Rock [Rashad Carmichael], and that’s how Jayron made a name for himself,” Fuller said. “The same thing is going to happen to me, so I’ve got to take advantage of my opportunities. I’ve got to be ready to take on that challenge.”

Fuller, a sophomore, got his baptism into Division I football a year ago as a true freshman when he saw extensive playing time in Tech’s nickel defense. In fact, he started six games mostly because of all the spread offenses thrown at the Hokies by their opponents, but also because of injuries (Eddie Whitley) and inconsistency on a defense that forced Tech’s staff to juggle things a bit.

Though slender at roughly 170 pounds when he enrolled, he got on the field because of his intelligence – arguably his best trait.

“You have to be able to know other positions,” Fuller said. “I was able to learn the nickel, and that’s what helped me get on the field last year. If I hadn’t been able to do that, then maybe I wouldn’t have been on the field as much as I was.

“As long as you know your alignment, your assignments and your adjustments, you’ll be good. That’s hard for freshmen. But I think that’s what helped me get ahead of some of the other freshmen.”

With Fuller and Hosley manning the corner spots and Whitley controlling the free safety position, Tech’s 2011 secondary is in good shape. Hosley finished with 50 tackles and nine interceptions last season, while Whitley – a senior and a leader – had 80 tackles and two interceptions.

The other starter will be Antone Exum, who heads up the rover spot and replaces Davon Morgan. Exum started five games a year ago when Tech went to its nickel defense and finished with 45 tackles. At nearly 220 pounds and with a nose for the ball, he could make a ton of plays at a playmaking spot like rover.

Cris Hill, a steady senior, and Detrick Bonner, a talented freshman who enjoyed a fantastic spring, provide depth at the cornerback spots. But depth at free safety and rover remains a concern. Theron Norman, who backed up Whitley this past spring, will miss the early part of the season with an injury, and Boye Aromire, a freshman without any college experience, is the backup at rover.

The young depth makes it imperative that the starters stay healthy, including Fuller, whose smarts and smooth style – and newly bulked-up body at 186 pounds – could make him the next big star out of Tech’s secondary. At the least, he’s going to be challenged and he welcomes it, though he doesn’t have any messages for opposing receivers.

“I’m not that type of guy,” he said. “But I’m ready to take on all the challenges.”

Boundary cornerbacks
20 Jayron Hosley (5-10, 170, Jr.)
9 Cris Hill (5-11, 176, r-Sr.)

Field cornerbacks
17 Kyle Fuller (6-0, 185, Soph.)
8 Detrick Bonner (6-0, 183, r-Fr.)

Free safeties
15 Eddie Whitley (6-1, 187, Sr.)
21 Theron Norman (6-3, 209, r-Fr.)

1 Antone Exum (5-11, 217, r-Soph.)
30 Boye Aromire (5-11, 195, Fr.)


Returning starters: Jayron Hosley (13 career starts), Eddie Whitley (14)

Starters lost: Rashad Carmichael (26 career starts), Davon Morgan (23)

Projected new starters: Kyle Fuller, Antone Exum

Top reserves: Cris Hill, Detrick Bonner, Boye Aromire

Newcomers: Aromire, Theron Norman

Breakout candidate: Fuller

Notes: Whitley finished third on the team with 80 tackles a year ago … Exum finished sixth in tackles despite starting just five games … Tech’s secondary finished with 20 of the team’s 23 interceptions – the 23 picks tied for second nationally.