ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #28, Antone Exum

Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum is #28 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum is #28 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

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.

No. 28, Antone Exum, CB/Virginia Tech (Last Season: 10)

I’ll start by saying I’m entirely aware that Antone Exum will miss the Alabama game at the very least, if not a few more in September as well. I even discussed as much when talking about fellow Tech CB Kyle Fuller yesterday. But just because he’s missing a few games, it doesn’t mean he’s losing all of his value to the Hokies. On the contrary, without him in the lineup, we may see just how desperately that passing defense really needs him in the lineup. With Fuller more focused on stalling receivers at the line, Exum is the only experienced cover corner they’ve got. That should be readily apparent once he’s back in the lineup.

Exum’s 2012 season was everything the Hokies needed from him and more. For a defensive unit undergoing adjustments, an elite coverage man was a necessity, and it was a role Exum gladly filled. His five interceptions made up over one-third of the team total (13) and his 21 passes defended led the ACC. Using his significant size (6’1″ and 224 pounds) and speed, he was disruptive in the passing game, giving receiver after receiver fits as the ball headed their way. And he was a difference-maker to close out games as well. Exum’s picks effectively locked up three of Tech’s seven victories last year — no small feat, and not something many other defenders can lay claim to. He and Fuller played well off each other, and will look to again during the 2013 campaign.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #33, Kyle Fuller

Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller is #33 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller is #33 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

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.

No. 33, Kyle Fuller, CB/Virginia Tech (Last Season: NR)

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.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Logan Thomas is the Obvious Focal Point of a Turnaround for Virginia Tech This Year

Logan Thomas is the Obvious Focal Point of a Turnaround for Virginia Tech This Year

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Spring Practice Start Date: March 27

Spring Game Date: April 20

Following last year’s disappointing campaign, Virginia Tech’s spring is all about diagnosing issues. From the futile offensive attack, to a defense that certainly needs some course correction, Tech’s coaches have been diving into what went so wrong in 2012 — and how to fix those problems (at least in part) over the course of the next month. And while those calling for long-time coach Frank Beamer’s job may be a bit off-base right now, it’s likely that the 2013 season is a key point in the narrative of his career; be it a positive upswing after one lackluster year, or the start of a steady downfall.

Offensively, Virginia Tech struggled mightily in 2012, and there’s no one trouble spot there either. Behind an inexperienced line, Logan Thomas and his very green backfield repeatedly failed to find success, and never truly adjusted as the year wore on. With more experience all across the board, the test this spring will be to see just how much everyone learned. While Thomas should certainly be held accountable for his errors as the team’s leader, it must also be acknowledged that far too much was expected of him week-in and week-out, causing him to over-compensate. Newly installed offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler must understand both sides of this coin from the beginning, and stress additional accountability. Beyond Thomas, that means stark improvement across the line, and a more effective running game. At least at the onset, J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes should be handling the bulk of the carries, and hopefully one or two emerge as a better runner than he has been in the past.

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ACC Football Preseason Power Rankings 2012

Kyle Fuller and the Virginia Tech Defense Are a Large Part of the Team’s High Ranking Coming Into 2012

Just days before kickoff, we’ve compiled our final offseason power rankings before the new ACC football season begins. Starting after week one (this weekend), these will go back to their typical, weekly format. Read the full rankings below, and enjoy the season!

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Florida State’s hype has gone through the roof as we’ve gotten closer to the season. On top of the typical talk of an ACC title, notable pundits have also pegged them as a true national title contender (and perhaps, winner, too). In the end, it’ll all come down to EJ Manuel‘s readiness to take them to the next level. It’s obvious the defense is fully capable already, despite the loss of Greg Reid (not as vital as some would have you think).

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Things won’t be easy without game-changing receiver Sammy Watkins during the first two games of the season. But there’s still plenty of firepower in this offense, even in his absence. We know they can score. But unfortunately, we’re still unsure whether or not this defense can stop anyone. Week one versus Auburn will be a tough test early on.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): As always, the Virginia Tech defense (led by Kyle Fuller) is on board. Now, we’ll have to see just how well this revamped Hokies offensive line holds up. If Logan Thomas can get some time to throw — instead of being relegated to scrambling too often — they’ll be just fine.

4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (LW: 5): Manageable schedule, veteran group; the whole thing seems to lead to a big year for the Ramblin’ Wreck. The key, as mentioned far too many times before, is Tevin Washington‘s ability to throw the ball. If he’s made strides, and the passing game at least appears to be a threat to the defense, the triple-option becomes that much more dangerous.

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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 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas Will Be Called Upon to Carry An Experienced Offense in 2012

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies enter their 2012 spring practice session on a two-game losing streak and a frightening reality without their star running back. David Wilson was as important as any ACC player was to his offense, tallying over 1,700 rushing yards for a unit that would finish 28th nationally in yards on the ground. His running prowess, coupled with quarterback Logan Thomas‘s own mobility, allowed the young quarterback time to throw and the piece of mind that he wouldn’t have to shoulder the entire team’s fortunes. It worked to near-perfection, but now Thomas must figure out how to lead this group on his own. Exacerbating matters are the amount of starters returning for an offense that left much to be desired in 2011. Just three starters (including Thomas) are back, leaving holes across the line — especially the most gaping one, where OT Blake DeChristopher used to be. Will junior center Andrew Miller be capable of anchoring such an inexperienced unit? They’ve already got not depth along the line, plus there’s little help coming in the class of 2012. For as strong as the Hokies have been for the past decade-plus now, the amount of replacement they’ll need to do on the fly this season could be enough to derail them. Continue reading