Just over a year ago, Jermaine Waller attended Virginia Tech's satellite camp in the Washington D.C. area with the hopes of receiving an offer from the Hokies despite the fact that VT already had a large defensive back class with limited spots left.
However, Jermaine Waller impressed Virginia Tech that night and the Hokies extended him an offer, the ninth of his recruitment. Less than two months later, Waller committed to Virginia Tech and enrolled in January in pursuit of the opportunity to play early.
While Waller was opening the door to compete for a spot on the two-deep, it was hard to imagine Waller being a significant contributor at cornerback.
Despite that, Waller worked hard this spring and made it clear quickly that he was ready to at least compete for a spot in the two-deep and in Justin Fuente's eyes, Waller wasn't someone who need a redshirt year or more to develop without being good enough to play
"He's a microcosm of our football team right now," Justin Fuente said of Waller. "I think he's got talent. He's young. We don't have time to pull him aside and say, 'Just relax. We'll call you in a couple of years when it's time to play." (Via HokieSports.com)
Even with those comments, no one imagined Waller would be a major contributor at CB especially with Adonis Alexander presumably set to return in the fall and JUCO star Jeremy Webb arriving in the summer.
Then things changed drastically.
On June 1st, Virginia Tech announced that Adonis Alexander left the Virginia Tech football team (for academic reasons) and Jeremy Webb was out for the season with an Achilles injury. That opened the door wide open and left at least one open starting cornerback spot with both open if Mook Reynolds doesn't end up shifting back to CB, something that is unknown at the moment.
In an instant, Jermaine Waller became a contender to start for the Hokies at cornerback, something that no one imagined was possible last year.
However, Waller has impressed Virginia Tech time and time again and enters this fall as a frontrunner in a cornerback room prime for young guys like Waller, true sophomore Bryce Watts, and redshirt freshman Caleb Farley to take over.
Virginia Tech does have some other intriguing freshman cornerbacks in Nadir Thompson and Armani Chatman, but Waller has the significant advantage of being in Blacksburg this spring to acclimate to college life, learn the Virginia Tech defense, and get to be coached up by Brian Mitchell.
In some ways, Waller is an ideal fit in Bud Foster's defense as a long, athletic cornerback who looked fairly comfortable during the Spring Game in man coverage. While Waller wasn't necessarily a standout, he also broke up a couple of passes and didn't have any obviously bad plays while getting plenty of reps with what was the first team defense on the afternoon.
Even with that, there are still the big concerns about starting a true freshman cornerback given his lack of experience especially given the Florida State game to start the season. If Waller doesn't start in that game, don't be surprised to see him get lots of opportunities after that as the schedule lightens up significantly with William & Mary and a down East Carolina team coming to Lane Stadium.
Waller has surprised people time and time again with his play on the field both in practice and scrimmages. While it's hard to consider Waller a favorite to start against Florida State, the Maryland native should be considered a serious contender to beat out older CBs for the job like Bryce Watts, Jovonn Quillen, and Tyree Rodgers.
Last June, it wasn't even imaginable that Jermaine Waller would even receive a Virginia Tech offer. Now, he may be starting for the Hokies on Labor Day night on ESPN at Florida State to open his true freshman season.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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