Today, our position-by-position preview continues on with Brandon Facyson and Virginia Tech’s cornerbacks.
The Hokies have had their fair share of talented cornerbacks over years to help build Virginia Tech’s reputation as being DBU with Kendall Fuller being the most recent cornerback to be selected in the NFL Draft. Entering 2016, the Hokies once again have a good amount of talent at the cornerback despite the departure of Kendall Fuller for the NFL Draft.
After breaking through as a freshman in 2013 with five interceptions, Brandon Facyson was forced to take a medical redshirt in 2014 before bouncing back in 2015 though failing to earn major recognitions in part because he failed to intercept a pass even though Facyson looked like on of the top 6 to 8 cornerbacks in the ACC, making him worthy of at least All-ACC Honorable Mention honors.
Facyson was limited again due to injuries this spring but Facyson is all good to go now, and seems ready to be one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC. Facyson has shown time and time again that he has great ball skills that allows him to take advantage of his length at 6’2” and really be a nuisance for wide receivers trying to make a play on a deep ball.
Facyson has developed into a quality man coverage cornerback but with Bud Foster looking to play more in zone coverage this fall, Facyson’s skills may be better used than previously as someone whose ball skills should help him even more. No one should be surprised if Facyson ends up being on one of the top two All-ACC teams after this season but he must stay healthy.
Across from him will most likely be Adonis Alexander who will be suspended against Liberty and make his season debut at cornerback against Tennessee. Alexander made the move from rover to cornerback this offseason and it seems like he will stay there with Terrell Edmunds bulking up to handle the wear and tear of playing the rover spot in Bud Foster’s defense.
Alexander seemed like a natural fit at the rover spot last year and the decision not to move Alexander back to rover after this spring is still surprising. Alexander has improved in man coverage but from what I’ve seen, Alexander just doesn’t seem to have the man coverage skills to be a good fit at the cornerback spot given his skills. However, Foster’s shift towards playing more zone may make Alexander length and size more usual on the outside.
Alexander did show some great upside with his ball skills as he had 4 interceptions in addition to having 55 tackles and 10 pass deflections on his way to earning Freshman All-American Second Team honors from multiple places. However, Alexander did have some struggles in man coverage that hurt his performance but the Hokies will be hoping that Alexander can develop those man coverage skills more.
With Foster’s defense still likely to use a fair amount of man coverage, Virginia Tech will need Alexander to improve those man coverage skills as he showed some against Virginia last season.
While Foster has talent at the top of the depth chart, the backup cornerbacks are once again quite good as well with both Greg Stroman and Mook Reynolds having starter quality talent that could push Alexander back to safety by next season or even push to take a starting job from Alexander this fall.
Stroman earned a lot of playing time as a nickel cornerback last season, and him and Reynolds are likely to split that role again in addition to rotating in on the outside. One big thing with Stroman is the fact that he has finally bulked to 180 pounds which is something that has held him back in the past.
Stroman wasn’t perfect last season but he showed a good amount of promise with 24 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 5 pass breakups. Stroman is fairly effective in man coverage and seems like a strong candidate to be the starting cornerback opposite Brandon Facyson during Adonis Alexander’s suspension. Stroman did play a little wide receiver over the past two years but he has proven himself at cornerback and will be another reliable cornerback for the Hokies.
Meanwhile, Mook Reynolds is a starter for the future in the defensive backfield with many believing that will be at cornerback though with the sophomore being listed on the roster as a free safety, Reynolds may be the next guy at free safety for a year depending on if a guy like Devon Hunter were to commit or not.
Reynolds was solid as a freshman with 30 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recovers, and a pass deflection while proving to be a fairly capable man coverage defensive back. Reynolds’s effectiveness around the line of scrimmage may give him a boost over Stroman and not only help him earn the nickel cornerback job but also a starting job in a 4-2-5 defense over whip linebacker Anthony Shegog.
Reynolds has shown that he can be effective in man or zone coverage and as a run defender, making him a versatile weapon in Bud Foster’s defensive backfield.
Khalil Ladler has the talent and skills to be the next Virginia Tech freshman cornerback to play immediately as long as he is healthy to play. Ladler became a borderline four-star recruit largely due to the injury he picked up as a senior. However, a healthy Ladler gives the Hokies another young, talented cornerback that will be ready to play immediately behind Facyson, Alexander, Stroman, and Reynolds.
No one should be surprised to see Ladler gain a decent amount of playing time this fall if he’s healthy.
Justin Fuente revealed that Henri Murphy will be eligible to play this fall and Murphy has the potential to be the surprise cornerback on this list. However, Murphy is currently listed as a junior wide receiver on Virginia Tech’s roster and there is some confusion as to what side of the ball he will be on so we will exclude Murphy from this list at this point though signals point to him at wide receiver, not cornerback at previously expected.
It’s unknown what position fellow freshman defensive back Tyree Rodgers will play but Bud Foster mentioned both him and Ladler as two freshmen that he’s really excited about in the defensive backfield. Rodgers was a late offer and flip from ODU, but the New Jersey native is an intriguing talent to watch down the road with a redshirt likely this year.
DuWayne Johnson redshirted last season and the long cornerback enters the fall under the radar. Johnson knows that if he wants to be a starter down the road, now is the time to start making the move but whether he does that or not, Johnson seems like a player who can do some damage in the future.
There will also be walk-ons aplenty on the depth chart headlined by the long Shawn Payne who chose to transfer, was released from his scholarship, and then decided to walk back on the team. Payne knows that he has a lot of work if he wants to earn a scholarship again but Payne has the length to potentially do that.
Curtis Williams and Erikk Banks are a couple of veteran walk-ons that should provide even more depth at the spot while Elisha Boyd and Tyrone Thornton are younger walk-ons who will look to see if they can prove themselves in practice and may consider down the road, transferring to a smaller school where they could earn a scholarship.
CB Depth Chart Prediction
- Brandon Facyson
- Adonis Alexander
- Mook Reynolds
- Greg Stroman
- Khalil Ladler
- DuWayne Johnson
- Tyree Rodgers (Redshirt)
- Shawn Payne (Redshirt)
- Erikk Banks
- Curtis Williams
At the top will be Brandon Facyson and Adonis Alexander though Mook Reynolds and Greg Stroman won’t be far behind Alexander. Reynolds and Stroman will both play a lot this fall but Reynolds ability to make plays around the line of scrimmage and his upside will help him earn more time as the nickel cornerback in addition to some starts. Meanwhile, a healthy Khalil Ladler should avoid a redshirt though if injuries pop up, expect him to redshirt.
DuWayne Johnson may get a chance or two to play some this fall but his playing time may not increase for another year or so. Tyree Rodgers and Shawn Payne both seem prime to be redshirted even with Payne being a walk-on.
The Hokies once again have a talented group of cornerbacks led by a talented all-around cover guy in Brandon Facyson and a young Adonis Alexander who has been improving in man coverage but could be more effective than in previous Bud Foster defenses with the schematic shift to more zone.
Fall practice is almost here and we continue on tomorrow to Chuck Clark and the safeties.
Check out the home of our 2016 Virginia Tech Football Preview right here.