By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Kendall Fuller has his goal set for 2013 as a member of the Virginia Tech football team.
“One of the top freshmen in the country,” Fuller said. “I think everyone who wants to be successful has high expectations for themselves where they want to be the best, so I am just taking that with me and just working hard and trying to get there.”
His first chance to earn that acclaim comes today when Fuller will start as a true freshman for the Hokies against talented wide receiver Amari Cooper and top-ranked Alabama.
He will be ready.
“It is going to be fun,” he said, with a smile. “It is going to be fun out there.”
Even facing Cooper, who is just one of many weapons on a potent Alabama offense that will challenge a talented Virginia Tech defense that is talented, but inexperienced in the secondary.
“I am definitely looking forward to it,” said Fuller, the first 5-star recruit at Virginia Tech since Tyrod Taylor. “I don’t think any good player will shy away from competition. We are just going to go out there and our mindset will be that we can cover him, that he won’t do anything too big on us.”
Fuller and fellow true freshman Brandon Facyson will draw the start today in the secondary against that offense that also includes quarterback A.J. McCarron and talented tailback T.J. Yeldon.
“We know (Cooper) is a good player, definitely a good player,” Fuller said. “He is going to make a couple of plays, but we definitely have confidence in ourselves that we will able to do our jobs.”
It is a tall task indeed, but Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster liked what he had seen from the freshman duo early in camp.
“Really I think we have got two outstanding projects in Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller,” Foster said.
Especially Fuller, a rare 5-star athlete to play at Virginia Tech, following in the family footsteps of former Hokies’ Vincent Fuller and Corey Fuller, and has joined a secondary that will include another brother, senior Kyle Fuller, who will also start for the Hokies tonight.
He is the fourth of four brothers to play at Virginia Tech. It wasn’t like the Hokies had to recruit real hard, even though there was plenty of competition for his services.
“I don’t think there was much they could have told me after being down here all the time,” Fuller said.
Still, the decision wasn’t as easy as it might sound.
“It was a close decision between Virginia Tech and Clemson,” said Fuller, who is focused on helping the Hokies improve on last year’s 7-6 campaign. “I felt that Virginia Tech was the best fit for me...
“Last year is behind us, we are just working and focusing on this year.”
That was welcome news to Foster, who, jokingly, added that he might have to hire Kyle Fuller as a coach in the future after seeing the older sibling’s work with his younger brother during summer workouts.
Coaches often say that younger players who line up furthest from the ball can get on the field sooner, and Fuller fits the part.
“That is a position that you can play as a young player as far as a freshman,” Foster said.
“Kendall has been to a lot of games here, he has been to a lot of practices here, he has been here all summer, his brother has had an opportunity to go over everything and walk through everything.
“He has had spring practice under his belt without even being a spring practice. It is just refreshing to see a guy who has good abilities, that has tremendous IQ, to come in that early and be ready to go.”
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer has also noticed Fuller’s improvement, and is glad to have him in his side.
“He is picking up our defense, learning the fundamentals to get the job done, just going out there and being confident and being better every day,” Beamer said. “He has been doing a good job of that.”
Having an older sibling on the field with him has certainly helped in his development on the field.
“It makes it a lot easier, just having somebody close to you, who has been through it and can talk to you and guide you through it,” he said.
Kyle Fuller has enjoyed it as well.
“It is a lot of fun,” Kyle said. “When I am out there try to compete as much as we can, but I also try to help him out. It is just good to know I have him out there on the field with me.”
Fuller arrived at Virginia Tech expecting to get on the field, and soon.
“I have expectations for myself,” he said. “Definitely, I am just trying to work hard and just prepare for it and trying to make sure that I am ready whenever they call my name and I am out there...
“I am just trying to learn from the coaches. When I am out there making mistakes I just try to learn from them and fix them and try not to make the same mistakes twice.”
That attitude and football intelligence has definitely caught the eye of Foster, who expects big things now, and in the future not only for Fuller, but also Facyson, who is also a talented freshman being put in a difficult situation.
“Those guys are going to continue to grow, they are true freshmen, but at the same time they both have a lot of abilities and I am excited about their future,” Foster said. “Each snap is going to be a learning experience for them....I am real pleased with how they are progressing moving forward right now.”
Virginia Tech will be sending around 71 players to Atlanta, and nearly a third of them will be freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Foster knows they will take their lumps, but the experience will prove beneficial in the future.
“(Kendall) hasn’t taken a college snap yet, when it is all said and done, it is a little bit different in practice than it is in the games,” Foster said. “I think he is a guy that at least has the makeup, I don’t think that will effect him as much as some other freshman when it is all said and done for first time players.
“There are a lot of redshirt freshmen on this football team that will be playing their first college snaps, even though they have been a year in our program, the best way to get better is through game experience, not practice experience.
“I think as good as I see what I like right now, I think he is only going to continue to grow and get better, that is very encouraging from our side of things.”
Fuller arrived at Virginia Tech confident in his abilities, but never really gave much thought to what being a 5-star athlete really means.
“For me not really, no matter what school you go to, you are going to have good talent around you,” Fuller said. “Some guys don’t get stars because they weren’t really in the camps or things like that. There are always going to be a good athletes around you so that is nothing big to me.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org