2002 Football Preview: Defensive Backs

Chris Coleman previews the 2002 Virginia Tech defensive backfield. Even though the Hokies have to suffer through the loss of Eric Green for the season and Ronyell Whitaker for two games, this unit is expected to be very strong in 2002.

One month ago the Virginia Tech defensive backfield looked as if it could be the best in college football. Then Eric Green tore his ACL in a voluntary workout. Then All-American Ronyell Whitaker was suspended for the first two games of the season. Now the Hokies find themselves precariously thin at arguably the most important position on the field - cornerback. Let's take a look at who the Hokies will rely on in the defensive backfield in 2002...

Field Corner-
Deangelo Hall (5-11 200, So.) will start at field corner. Hall has a chance to be one of the greatest corners to ever play the game. He is an amazing athlete who will make many plays this season for the Hokies.

Garnell Wilds (5-11 194, r-Jr.) will backup both corner positions because of the Hokies' lack of depth. Wilds is a solid player who started one game last year against Temple and recorded 2 interceptions.

Cary Wade (5-10 175, Fr.) will play for the Hokies this year as a true freshman. He will see most of his time on special teams, as well as some spot duty at cornerback. If things go as expected, expect to see him on defense some against Arkansas St.

Brian McPherson (5-10 177, Fr.) will redshirt this year for the Hokies. McPherson has all the physical tools to be a very good player for Tech. He will redshirt in 2002 and be a big contributor in 2003.

Boundary Corner-
Vincent Fuller (6-1 185, r-So.)
will move from free safety to cornerback. Fuller will be making his first start at Virginia Tech. He saw spot duty at safety last year, and will make a big impact in 2002. He will likely see time at safety as well. Fuller runs a sub 4.4 forty and has a very bright future.

D.J. Walton (5-9 196, r-Fr.) will likely see some time in this game. His speed is questionable, but speed is sometimes overrated. It will be interesting to get our first look at Walton on Sunday.

Ronyell Whitaker (5-9 197, r-Sr.) will start the year off on the bench. Whitaker was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating team rules. However, once he returns to action look for him to regain his starting spot and have a very good senior season.

Free Safety-
Willie Pile (6-3 210, r-Sr.)
is poised to have a great senior season. One of the top safeties in college football, Pile will be relied on for stellar senior leadership as well as making plays.

Jimmy Williams (6-2 203, Fr.) is another Hokie who is playing as a true freshman. This guy has all the tools to be a star for Virginia Tech. The coaches have raved about him all month. He needs time to learn and develop, but he will be a great player.

Rover-
Michael Crawford (5-11 206, r-Jr.)
won the starting job this August. He has been described as a playmaker who plays full speed all the time. Hokie fans haven't seen much of Crawford except on special teams, but if the trend of Tech rovers going to the NFL is to be believed, Crawford will do well.

Billy Hardee (5-11 203, r-Sr.) is a former walk-on who has had a solid career at Virginia Tech. He has played safety, cornerback and rover. He is solid in everything he does, both on the field and off the field. Hardee will be an important piece of the puzzle for the Hokies this year.

Antoine Rutherford (5-10 181, Fr.) will redshirt this year, barring emergency. Rovers coach Jim Cavanaugh has given Rutherford high praise. He will likely be a major contributor in 2003.

Whip-
Brandon Manning (6-0 214, r-So.) is a walk-on who will likely make his first college start against Arkansas St. due to a lingering injury to Mike Daniels. Manning is a solid player who is most known for his touchdown on the punt block against Miami last year.

Mike Daniels (6-0 201, r-So.) started at Whip for part of the 2001 season as a redshirt freshman. He did an outstanding job considering his youth. A nagging injury has stayed with him throughout fall practice, but once he kicks it away there will be nothing holding him back.

Aaron Rouse (6-3 192, Fr.) will redshirt this year. Rouse is well known for his deadly hits in high school, and the Hokies are hoping he can bring that game to the college level. So far, he has earned high praise from the Tech coaching staff.

Overall... Even with the ACL injury to Eric Green, this unit can be the best ever at Tech after the return of Ronyell Whitaker from his suspension. Unfortunately, Whitaker will miss the LSU game, but fortunately he will be back for the Hokies' game against pass-happy Marshall and Byron Leftwich. I think the biggest surprise of the season will be the play of Vincent Fuller. He is a terrific athlete and this is his season to show what he can do. All in all, the Virginia Tech secondary will be a team strength in 2002.

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