Last season, Donovan Riley found his way on the field for the Hokies a lot as one of Virginia Tech’s top three healthy cornerbacks. Riley actually was one of the top two cornerbacks for a little bit though Chuck Clark eventually overtook him as a starting cornerback.
However, the Hokies still used Riley a lot as a third cornerback or as a second rover in a 4-2-5 defense to go with Kyshoen Jarrett. Riley even started a couple of games officially as a rover with Jarrett also starting those games as a rover.
This spring, the Hokies moved Riley to safety to see what he could do at the free safety and rover spots with Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson both returning. Riley spent most of his time at rover with the Hokies making the decision to move Chuck Clark back to his original free safety spot.
Riley entered the fall battling Desmond Frye for the rover spot, but Frye seized the rover job to start while Adonis Alexander proved that he could be a solid backup. With all of this happening during fall practice, the Hokies moved Riley back to cornerback to be the top backup at the spot.
This move has now opened the door for Donovan Riley to really becomes Torrian Gray’s Mr. Versatile in the defensive backfield.
Riley has shown that he is kind of a jack-of-all-trades player that can get the job done in man coverage. Riley’s man coverage skills will be important in getting him on the field along with the fact that he has tons of experience, and he plays with a lot of toughness.
It seems unlikely that Riley may take the starting rover job from Frye at some point, but Riley could be the top replacement in case of injury at any spot in the defensive backfield.
Riley’s experience is a big factor in this, and his veteran presence will also be valuable for some of the less experienced players who will be in smaller roles behind Riley. Riley has the chance to be a very good leader for those younger guys in practice along with the top starters like Kendall Fuller, Chuck Clark, Brandon Facyson, and Desmond Frye.
Donovan Riley was unable to earn a starting job for the Hokies this fall, but he gives Bud Foster an experienced, versatile defensive back that can very useful this fall while also being a solid injury replacement for a starter at just about any of the positions in the defensive backfield.