Just about everyone would agree that the Virginia Tech Hokies have one of America's top secondaries looking ahead to the 2017 season with VT having the third-best secondary in America according to Bleacher Report only behind Florida State and Alabama along with having 3 cornerbacks ranked in the top 15 by Sports On Earth and Greg Stroman being named a Preseason Second Team All-American by Athlon Sports.
For Florida State and Alabama, their secondaries are loaded with players that were mostly elite four and five-star recruits coming out of high school. While Virginia Tech does have a few players that were highly-regarded players in their secondary like Brandon Facyson, Devon Hunter, and Reggie Floyd; some of the Hokies top DBs were also guys who flew under-the-radar with few power 5 offers.
We start with senior cornerback Greg Stroman who was of the Hokies' lowest-rated recruits in the Hokies' 2014 class but never redshirted and has made a difference both on defense and special teams.
Stroman was listed as an athlete by many that only received power 5 offers from VT, Duke, Wisconsin, and Virginia according to 247 Sports. Stroman committed to the Hokies in August before the 2013 season and was VT's first of four commits in four years out of Stonewall Jackson HS in Northern Virginia.
According to 247 Sports, Stroman was the third lowest-rated recruit that enrolled for the Hokies that class with Shawn Payne and Steve Sobczak being the only two rated lower than that. This class included higher profile DBs like Holland Fisher, who was coming off time at prep school, and CJ Reavis who was expected to come in and make a big impact. Neither Fisher nor Reavis lasted long in Blacksburg for various reasons, but Stroman is still around and has become one of the ACC's top cornerbacks.
Stroman came in as a freshman and didn't play much at cornerback, but he did take over as the team's punt returner averaging 6.9 yards per punt return. However, there were concerns that while Stroman had goo length at six feel tall, he didn't have the weight and strength to hold up throughout the college football season on the outside.
Over the past two years, Stroman has proven his doubters wrong with his best season of his career in 2016 with 3 interceptions, 10 pass breakups, and 13 tackles in 11 games and 9 starts on his way to earning Second Team All-ACC honors from the ACC coaches and Third Teams honors from the ACSMA. Stroman was also consistently praised as one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC last season while also being seen by some as one of the top returning cornerbacks in America including by Athlon Sports who named him to their Preseason All-American Second Team
Stroman has also made a great impact on special teams as VT's punt returner the past three seasons including a career-high 8.8 yards per punt return this past season and 2 punt returns for touchdowns in his VT career.
Stroman will be one part of the three-headed cornerback monster for the Hokies this fall, and will definitely have plenty of NFL scouts watching him with the former lightly-recruited, low three-star athlete who has surpassed all expectations in Blacksburg. However, Stroman wasn't the only defensive back steal in the 2014 class.
Terrell Edmunds was slightly higher-rated than Greg Stroman, but the three-star defensive back and middle Edmunds brother was the one that flew well under-the-radar as he only had three offers total from Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, and Hampton. Part of that could have been due to how he committed in late April to the Hokies and may not have reported other offers he received.
Either way, it's clear now that plenty of teams missed out on Edmunds who returns as one of the ACC's top safeties.
Edmunds is moving from rover to free safety, but showed in 2016 that he is a complete safety who could play either spot making plays around the line of scrimmage and in coverage. Edmunds started 13 of 14 games and shined with 89 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, and 3 pass breakups on his way to earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. This success came in his first year as a safety after moving from cornerback where he proved to be a solid backup in 2015.
One of the biggest things with Edmunds is that he's shown that not only is he a very good ball hawk in zone coverage but that he is an above-average man coverage safety, something that is quite good for a Bud Foster defense that has used safeties plenty in man coverage even if they aren't very good in man coverage. However, Edmunds gives someone who Bud Foster (and Hokie fans) can trust in man coverage, giving Foster more flexibility to bring an extra pass rusher to force a sack or interception.
Edmunds has developed into one of America's most underrated safeties, and definitely will have a future in the NFL in a couple of years as a well-rounded defensive back that could play either free or strong safety in the NFL along with being an All-ACC player the next two seasons.
In the 2015 class, Adonis Alexander was a low-rated three-star recruit by recruiting services across the board while also not receiving much in terms of power 5 interest with Virginia Tech and Wake Forest being his only power 5 offers. VT had a few DBs that were rated higher than Alexander with Mook Reynolds being the one that worked out with Adonis Williamson never making it to Blacksburg and DuWayne Johnson never playing for the Hokies and transferring away from VT.
Despite being a low-rated DB, Alexander cam in and became a defensive playmaker immediately for the Hokies claiming the Hokies' starting rover and impressing with 55 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups in 2015 on his way to earning a few Second Team All-American honors.
Alexander moved to cornerback in 2016 and showed lots of potential with a solid season as he had 44 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 7 pass breakups while starting in 5 games for the Hokies behind Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman. Alexander's impressive length, size, athleticism, and ball skills have made some speculate that he could be a first round pick as soon as the 2018 NFL Draft especially if he continues to develop as a man coverage cornerback.
Alexander, Greg Stroman, and Brandon Facyson form a three-headed monster at cornerback that is arguably the best across all of college football and will give every quarterback and offensive coordinator plenty of challenges.
Both Frank Beamer and Justin Fuente are known for being great at finding underrated talent with Beamer having left Fuente with a few talented defensive backs that were underrated but proved plenty talented and big recruiting steals for the Hokies. Now, the Hokies are ready to benefit even more from those recruiting steals after winning the ACC Coastal and being set to start the season in the top 25 with one of America's best defenses.
There is no doubt that four and five-star recruits have success at a much higher rate but unlike Alabama and Florida State, Virginia Tech has built one of America's top secondaries with many under-recruited steals who Bud Foster and his staff have developed into very good defensive backs, proving again why Virginia Tech truly is DBU.
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