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Virginia Tech ironing out its secondary

3/27/2015

A combination of injuries and departures have left Virginia Tech’s secondary sparsely populated this spring -- at least when it comes to veterans. And after Thursday’s practice, defensive coordinator Bud Foster told the Roanoke Times, he was doing a lot of mixing and matching.

It’s tough to formulate a plan with both starting corners -- Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson -- out with injuries, and that’s forced Foster to adapt a bit.

From the Times:

Foster and secondary coach Torrian Gray wanted to keep Chuck Clark at cornerback, rather than move him to what they’ve said is his more natural position at safety, although he’ll play there some this spring too.

That led to more shuffling. Foster didn’t think the top free safety candidates, C.J. Reavis and Desmond Frye, had the straightaway speed to handle the coverage responsibilities required of the position. Enter Donovan Riley, a senior who has played corner his entire career but will get a look at both free safety and rover this spring.

The Times notes that Clark, Facyson and Fuller likely have starting jobs nailed down, but the extra reps for the rest of the group could be helpful in finding safeties ready to perform and depth behind the veterans.

Why is that important? Well, for the first time in a long time, the secondary wasn’t exactly rock solid for Virginia Tech last season.

It’s no secret Foster likes to be aggressive on D. He brings the blitz often -- 47.1 percent of the time in 2014, second in the ACC -- forcing his DBs to hold up in coverage.

Usually, it’s worked. Last season, not so much.

The Hokies allowed 79 plays of 20 yards or more last season, the sixth-most in the nation. Overall, more than 9 percent of their defensive snaps resulted in a gain of 20 yards or more, which was the worst by any Power 5 team by a fairly large margin.

So perhaps some changes at safety aren’t a bad thing. Facyson also missed most of last season, which caused some problems in the secondary. Clark’s move to safety or nickel could help corral some of those long runs, many of which came from opposing QBs, and Fuller remains a star that’s apt to improve in Year 3 in Foster’s system.

The flip side to those numbers, of course, is that the Hokies had as good a pass rush as there was in the ACC. That’s certainly enough to remind Foster where his bread is buttered (as if the win over Ohio State hadn’t already done that), but it would certainly make those gambles on D a little easier to call if the secondary was back to its usual standard.