The Virginia Tech football program got bad news today when it was announced that 2013 Tech commit and consensus 4-star safety Holland Fisher will be forced to prep the 2013 season at Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia. Here is the tweet from HokieHaven.com who broke the news today:
According to the Hokies' spring depth chart (as of March 27), Behind Detrick Bonner at free safety are redshirt-freshman walk-on Greg Jones and redshirt-freshman Der'Woun Greene, who in his year with the Hokies is already at his third position after beginning as a wide receiver before switching to cornerback for 2012. He just made the switch to free safety this spring. Greene had a very good spring, highlighted by a 5-tackle and 98-yard interception return for a touchdown performance in the spring game. He also added an interception and 4 tackles in the first spring scrimmage. But the fact is, despite his superb spring that suggests he's primed for a breakout, is that he has yet to see any time on the field in an actual game. He was a consensus 3-star recruit by the four major recruiting services in 2012. Even more problematic is that backup Greg Jones was sidelined for most of spring practice with a shoulder injury. T.J. Shaw, another walk-on, a redshirt-sophomore, who does not appear on the two-deep, also is listed as a free safety. He moved there either this spring or sometime last fall (Hokiesports isn't exactly clear) from the scout team offense. He contributed 3 tackles and a 39-yard interception return during the second spring scrimmage. He also intercepted a pass and recorded a sack in the spring game.
At rover, the immediate depth doesn't get much better, as behind Kyshoen Jarrett are Desmond Frye, a sophomore who played sparingly last year, but more as the year went on and redshirt-freshman walk-on Zach Snell. Frye mostly played on special teams units, as 108 of his 144 total plays came on special teams. He tallied 5 tackles and 1 pass breakup and 1 pass defensed. He moved exclusively to rover at the beginning of spring practice after working at both safety spots last year. He was also a consensus 3-star recruit by the four major recruiting services in 2012. Snell, who redshirted last year, was in on two tackles in the first spring scrimmage and a tackle in the spring game. That's why counting on someone of Fisher's ilk is so important, as he has the ability, according to national recruiting experts, to step in and play right away. Now, with his absence, the Hokies would be in dire straights if either of their starting safeties went down with injuries.
This situation is not new for a Hokies secondary that struggled due to depth issues in 2012. Attrition from the Hokies' secondary has been well documented over the last two years, as the Hokies have experienced the decision by Jayron Hosley to leave early for the NFL and the transfer of James Farrow at cornerback as well as the transfer of Adeboye (or Boye) Aromire and the retirement from football of Michael Cole, the two top backup safeties going into last year. In addition, James Hopper, who played as a reserve at both safety spots and a special teamer in 2010 and 2011 decided to retire from football to become a graduate assistant in 2012. They also lost safety Theron Norman to transfer, who was behind Jarrett and Aromire at the rover position at the time of his transfer, though he had played both safety positions at Tech.
Although the Hokies look to have bolstered the cornerback position with both three returning scholarship backups who spent last year in the system, two who played, and bringing in perhaps the top class of cornerbacks in school history, highlighted by one of the top cornerbacks in the nation, a Fuller no less. But despite the quality depth that now appears at the cornerback spot (which is still dependent on Antone Exum's health), safety depth is very much a problem spot. The question now becomes, with at least five incoming defensive backs (not including Fisher and provided that everyone else qualifies), does the staff intend to move any of the corners to either safety spot?
Regarding the incoming class, most of the four major recruiting sites think Anthony Shegog projects as a safety and there is some discussion on their part about where Charles Clark, Cequan Jefferson and Brandon Facyson will end up. Facyson, the Hokies' top defensive newcomer during spring practice, has worked exclusively as a cornerback since coming to Virginia Tech, and was a cornerback in high school. His being projected by some services as a safety probably has something to do with his elite size for a defensive back, measuring at 6'2" and 183 pounds according to Hokiesports. But despite his history at cornerback, especially as he will have a leg up in experience among the Hokie newcomers as he is the lone early enrollee among the incoming defensive backs, he might be a prime candidate to do so.
Although Shegog is projected to be a safety, Clark, Facyson and Jefferson are all more highly-rated than Shegog on average, though all four have at least one 4-star rating from one of the four major recruiting services. Unfortunately, there is also apparently some question whether Shegog and Jefferson will qualify or have to go the prep route like Fisher.
Also, despite already playing at corner in 2012, Donovan Riley, who played well in limited time in 2012, recording 4 tackles an interception and a pass defensed, is showing he might deserve more time on the field despite being blocked by Antone Exum if he should return healthy. He also added 4 tackles in the first spring scrimmage this year and a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown in this year's spring game. He also has the size necessary to play safety, as he is listed at 5'11' and 202 pounds by Hokiesports.
The ramifications of Fisher having to prep should make for an interesting dilemma in the defensive backfield for the Hokies in 2013, though for the sake of the team, an unwanted one. While they are very much in the same boat depth-wise as they were in 2012, at least they have known commodities in Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner as their starters, something they did not possess in 2012. They will simply have to rely on them heavily and hope that neither suffers an injury at any point.
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