NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Virginia Tech Prospects

Corey Fuller Looks to Create Some Separation From Marcus Davis in Scouts' Eyes

Corey Fuller Looks to Create Some Separation From Former Teammate Marcus Davis in Scouts’ Eyes

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

After a down year, Virginia Tech fails to push its typically elite crop of talent to the NFL Draft this spring. But that doesn’t mean Hokies will go unselected. Five former Tech players were invited to last month’s NFL Draft Scouting Combine, and yet none of them will be off the board until day three. It’s both indicative of a weak senior class for VPI, as well as some phenomenal underclassmen depth. Bet on this group being twice as big next season.

Corey Fuller, WR, Senior (Projected: Fifth Round)

With injuries all along Tech’s wide receiving corps, Fuller was given ample opportunity to be “the man” in the passing game. And while he failed to capitalize with consistency, he still showed plenty of potential as a standout receiver who could excel in a three-wideout set as a pro. Though not overly big (6’2″ and 204 pounds), Fuller has can’t miss speed running 40-yard dash in just 4.32 seconds and that alone is what has scouts excited about his upside. His soft hands and spot-on route running also provide some hope for him as a potential big-play target. If he can put on a few more pounds without losing speed, and increase some of that leaping ability, one pro team could end up with one of the breakout sleepers of the draft.

Vinston Painter, OT, Senior (Projected: Fifth Round)

Since the season ended, Painter’s certainly helped his case in workouts, moving up draft boards at one of the tougher spots to do so: offensive tackle. Considering his size (6’4″ and 306 pounds), he runs a very impressive 40-yard dash (4.9 seconds), and possesses a quick first move off the snap. His size and speed also allow him the versatility to play either the tackle or guard position, making him more valuable than other, slower prospects. Strength and conditioning-wise he’s already in some great habits, and those types of smarts speak volumes to scouts, who want to see investments in players pay off. I’ve got him going in the fifth, but if there’s a surge of linemen picked early, he could very well move up into round four.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas Looks to Be the Difference-Maker for a Team Lacking Offensive Experience

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

2011 W-L: 11-3 (7-1)

Head Coach: Frank Beamer (209-98-2; 26th season)

Returning Starters: 12 (3 Offense, 9 Defense)

An eighth straight 10-win season is rarely a disappointment, regardless of your team or conference. Of course, you’d also assume this string was part of a larger resume of success in that time frame. If you’re Virginia Tech, this is not the case, unfortunately. Sure, they’ve collected four ACC championships, but that’s not what we remember. Instead, they’re seen as the team that’s gone 1-4 in BCS games in that stretch, and one that has a knack for losing big games. True or not, they’re now battling perception. And only a huge postseason win is going to get them a victory in that conversation.

The Virginia Tech offense will be in transition this season, but it won’t reduce the stress on junior signal-caller Logan Thomas. Over the offseason, he lost his running back to the NFL Draft, four-fifths of his offensive line and his top two wide receivers. But if his steady improvement last year is any indicator, he’s more than capable of overcoming those numerous obstacles. An imposing 6’6″ and 260 pounds, he’ll again be hard to stop as a runner, and his passing ability just continues to get better. If the revamped offensive line cooperates (never a sure thing), he’ll need to quickly develop rapports with his new primary targets. D.J. Coles has plenty of experience, and appears ready to jump into a new, expanded role in the passing game. But there’s still question marks around Dyrell Roberts. Throughout his Tech career, he’s never really “made the jump,” so to speak, so there’s questions as to whether the fifth-year senior can finally make it happen. He’ll be given plenty of chances, so it’s up to him to make it happen.

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #18, Kyle Fuller

Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller is #18 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No. 18, Kyle Fuller, CB/Virginia Tech

Making a name for himself as an aggressive rusher out of the secondary, Fuller is one of the best defensive backs in the country in terms of getting after the quarterback. With 4.5 sacks in 2011, and 14.5 tackles for loss overall, it’s easy to understand why. The junior corner possesses a 4.5 40-time, and is always quick off the edge. While losing then-leading tackler Bruce Taylor midway through last year, Fuller was also able to pick up the slack, impressively holding the defense together while racking up 65 tackles on his own. Active in pass coverage as well, he managed to intercept two passes (including one in the Sugar Bowl), while also defending six throws total.

In 2012, Fuller returns to what may be one of the country’s best defensive units — a strong, quick group that finds itself to be the linchpin holding the Hokies together. One of the keys to VPI’s conference-leading pass rush is the variety of angles they can come at you from, and this year will be no different. Fuller’s expertise getting to the ball-carrier behind the line of scrimmage will be a big boost to the group, especially with the conference possesses such a deep group of talented passers.

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #24, Bruce Taylor

Virginia Tech’s Bruce Taylor is Number 24 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No, 24, Bruce Taylor, LB/Virginia Tech

If not for last year’s crushing foot injury (a severe fracture, as it ended up being), Taylor would likely be considered one of the conference’s top players heading into 2012. And maybe he still ends up there come the end of the season. But right now, with the senior linebacker apparently still feeling the effects of the injury he sustained last October, you can only assume so much. Still, if he can return at 100-percent, and produce at the high level he was halfway through last season, the Hokies could be in for a treat.

Holding off from participating in any additional offseason drills, it appears that Taylor’s safely in the starting lineup come week one, barring some major setback. And the Virginia Tech defense will surely need him. When he was lost for the season during the eighth game of 2011, Taylor was the team’s leader in tackles and an emotional force in the middle of the field. Over 50 tackles and five sacks; the type of numbers many players in the ACC were happy to end the year with. And yet, they simply provide a reminder about unfinished business for Taylor and a Hokies team that closed out the year with a bad taste in their mouths after two straight losses. Continue reading

ACC Football 2012 Standout Seniors Recap & Full List

Clemson Running Back Andre Ellington is One of Many Standout Senior Players in the ACC for 2012

On Monday, we reached the end of our “Standout Seniors” list, which highlighted 14 of the ACC’s best football players entering their final year of school. As mentioned, these were not always the teams’ star attractions, but the player deemed to have the most impact on the 2012 season, regardless of how quietly it came about.

Disagree with any of these picks? Let us know in the comments who you would have chosen instead. And as you’ll see immediately below, we’re going to need a new selection for BC.

Boston College: Montel Harris, RB (yes, we did start this list a while ago)

Clemson: Andre Ellington, RB

Duke: Sean Renfree, QB

Florida State: E.J. Manuel, QB

Georgia Tech: Tevin Washington, QB

Maryland: Joe Vellano, DT

Miami (FL): Mike James, RB

NC State: Mike Glennon, QB

North Carolina: Erik Highsmith, WR

Pittsburgh: Ray Graham, RB

Syracuse: Ryan Nassib, QB

Virginia: Steve Greer, LB

Virginia Tech: Bruce Taylor, LB

Wake Forest: Scott Betros, LB

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ACC Football Standout Senior 2012: Virginia Tech

Senior LB Bruce Taylor Leads a Young, Hungry Defense for the Virginia Tech Hokies

While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.

We’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

Bringing back most of a surprisingly young defense in 2012, Virginia Tech‘s still in need of a leader to keep everyone in line. Obviously, that duty falls to one of the few seniors in the group, linebacker Bruce Taylor. While Taylor spent half of 2011 out due to injury, there’s little thought the time away will hurt his effectiveness. With five sacks and 53 total stops through about seven-and-a-half games last year, he was obviously on track for an All-ACC season. Now, he starts his senior year with a mind on redemption (both personal and team). Continue reading