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August 21, 2012

Bonner ready to continue tremendous play this spring in Tech's secondary

By: Jimmy Robertson

On a sweltering July afternoon, several of Tech’s skill players participated in passing drills (voluntary, of course) directed by quarterbacks Logan Thomas and Mark Leal.

At the end of the session, Darius Redman, a backup tight end and a redshirt freshman, started to walk off the field with the others. But a familiar voice called out to him.

“Hold on, Darius. I’ll work with you,” Detrick Bonner said.

For another 20 minutes or so, Bonner defended Redman as he ran routes and caught passes from Leal. After each route, Bonner offered some tips to the young tight end on what to look for when he lined up against a defender and how to beat coverages on certain routes.

“I’ll help anyone,” Bonner said. “That’s not an issue at all for me. I’m trying to help him [Redman] get better. He’s got to get quicker, and he knows that. But as you’re helping someone else, you’re getting better. I usually have to stick with the tight ends during a game, and it’s not easy, so that helps me.”

Bonner’s helping Redman was just another step in the maturation process of a guy who was arguably Tech’s best defensive player in spring practice. The redshirt sophomore won the Dr. Richard Bullock Award during spring practice as the defensive player who showed the most improvement.

It came as a bit of surprise considering Bonner found himself moved to a different position at the start of spring practice. Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray made several changes in the secondary, moving Antone Exum to cornerback and both Kyshoen Jarrett and Bonner to the safety spots. Bonner flourished.

“I was a safety in high school, so it just felt natural to me,” the Georgia native said. “It felt like I was being freed instead of face to face with another person. I think I’m better at safety, and it showed this spring. I think the coaches got to see my natural ability.”

Tech’s secondary, which lost safety Eddie Whitley and cornerback Jayron Hosley, features a lot of talent in Kyle Fuller, Exum and Bonner. Exum led the Hokies with 89 tackles last season, and Fuller, a first-team All-ACC selection, finished with 14.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and two interceptions. Bonner started four games late in the year and had an interception.

But the Hokies need for Jarrett to continue to improve, and the staff needs to find some depth. Entering fall practice, only Boye Aromire, who can back up both spots, and Wiley Brown, a walk-on, have any experience – and most of their experience came on special teams last season. So they need to develop, along with newcomers like Donaldven Manning and Michael Cole, two freshmen.

“Our expectations are high,” Bonner said. “We feel like we can be one of the best groups in the country. We worked hard all summer, and we’ve gotten better.”

As for Bonner, he has high expectations for himself. He bulked up to nearly 200 pounds and spent a lot of time studying film to get ready for the season.

“It’s crazy. You’ve got to know everything about the defense,” Bonner said of his new position. “You’ve got to make calls and communicate and put people in the right position. It’s hard, but it’s also exciting. Every day, I got better, and I’m excited about the season.”


Field corners

17 Kyle Fuller (6-0, 193, Jr.)
30 Donaldven Manning (5-9, 155, Fr.)

Boundary corners

1 Antone Exum (6-1, 219, r-Jr.)
31 Donovan Riley (5-11, 200, Fr.)

13 Davion Tookes (5-10, 171, Fr.)


34 Kyshoen Jarrett (5-11, 195, Soph.)
2 Michael Cole (6-1, 199, r-Fr.)

Free safeties

8 Detrick Bonner (6-0, 198, r-Soph.)
13 Boye Aromire (6-0, 197, Soph.)
40 Wiley Brown (5-10, 207, r-Sr.)

26 Desmond Frye (6-2, 181, Fr.)


Returning starters: Kyle Fuller (20 career starts), Antone Exum (19)

Starters lost: Eddie Whitley (28 career starts), Jayron Hosley (26)

Projected new starters: Detrick Bonner (4 career starts), Kyshoen Jarrett

Top reserves: Donaldven Manning, Donovan Riley, Boye Aromire, Michael Cole

Newcomers: Manning, Riley, Cole, Davion Tookes, Desmond Frye

Breakout candidate: Bonner

Notes: Bonner started the last two games of the regular season last year and the Sugar Bowl game, as Tech’s staff went with a nickel defense … Fuller (President’s Award for leadership during the offseason) and Exum (Don Williams TEAM UNITED Award as the player who put the team first) also garnered awards this past spring … Tech’s secondary has combined for just four career interceptions (Fuller – 2, Exum, Bonner).