Off-Season Questions: If Exum Can't Go, Who Starts?

Another week, time for another important off-season question.

All of us were shocked and saddened by the news of Antone Exum's injury just a few weeks ago, as he had become a vocal leader in the #BEATBAMA campaign. His tweets about preparing for August 31st had everyone in Hokie Nation pumped up enough that they themselves were ready to go out and hit somebody... and it was only January.

But now a predicament faces our team and our defense, specifically the secondary. Who can replace Exum if he can't start against Alabama? Although he had his moments where he was in the wrong place at the wrong time last season, Mr. Swag grew into one of the ACC's shutdown corners by season's end. And while vocal leadership such as Antone's can still be effective from the bench and in the locker room, it's much better to have that leadership on the field.

Last season, it was mostly Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller playing the corner positions for the Lunchpail D. Rarely did we see Donaldven Manning or Donovan Riley step in and get any reps. When he did get some playing time, Manning made plays. But is it really safe to say that he should be the one to step in to cover Exum's side of the turf?

On the other side of the coin, there's two fresh bodies coming to campus this season in the shape of Cequan Jefferson and Kendall Fuller. I don't think I need to tell you how good these guys are. Fuller is a five-star, Army All-American, all-around player from one of the top high school football teams in the nation. Jefferson was a relative unknown until TKP's own French on the Bench series gave a remarkable Recruiting Review write-up on him. Even though he's a bit under-sized, the kid can play.

The question to you, the reader -- which one of these players can fill the void if Exum can't play? Even if he's not 100%, who splits time with him? Will it be Riley or Manning, with a year under their belts? Or will it be a newcomer, Fuller or Jefferson?

Hope you enjoyed the post, and all opinions are welcome!

DISCLAIMER: Forum topics may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.


Definitely Kendall Fuller. No doubt in my mind at all.

I love Virginia Tech, regardless of the outcome of every game.

In the best case scenario, he and Exum could split time in the opener.

Rick Monday... You Made a Great Play...

Romanes Eunt Domus

Not quite best case

Best case would be that Exum is back to 100% and doesn't need to share at all. However, chances of this are highly slim.

I'd love to see Kendall on the field and I think he will get his shot, but I think Torrian Gray has earned the right to figure it out and he will make the right call. If Manning gets his head on straight he might be the answer. Truthfully this is all for naught because Exum will be back thanks to the "stem cells" injected into his knee and attitude/desire. Even if they don't clear him he will steal a jersey and play a la Junior from the Gridiron Gang.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson


If Exum can't go, then I believe it will be one of those two. Manning has been putting on some serious muscle this offseason and Riley seem to be in the right spot the few times he was out there last year.
I see Kendall getting on the field no matter what because from what I've read and heard, he will step in for Kyle when Kyle slides down to nickle.
Cequan has good film and hopefully learns the D quick because depth was the issue last year and as long as the sophomores/r-fresh take a step forward and these freshmen live up to the hype, depth will not be a concern this year.

I think you're the one that works in Cassell so do you know Manning has put on weight based on what you've seen or are there any reports on this? Just wondering.

He did community service with us during last season and checks back in every now and then, plus I see him on campus. He is bigger than the stick figure he was last year. I think he will play in the 175 or 180 range this year, which is was 155 at most last year.

Thanks for the response. Good to know he added some weight. Stick figure is a great way to describe the Manning of last year. That added weight will certainly help his campaign.

Who knows, it could be both of them still battling for the spot when August 31st rolls around. Of course, we would rather have that decision solidified by that point, but if the competition is neck-and-neck all through Spring -- which it very well could be -- it's a possibility we see both of them play vs. Bama.

I wonder how much Kendall already knows about the system. If Kyle has been coaching him up on the side a little, or at least getting him up to speed on the terminology and philosophy of the defense, perhaps he can have a highly accelerated learning curve. For me, knowing the scheme is the big issue that could keep him off the field the first few games in favor of Manning. The guy is clearly talented enough to go.

It was a catch


and Bud already said that Kendall's fuller learning curve won't be so tough because Kyle has been working with him.

I think Manning will get first crack at it in spring practice. If he can improve enough then he'll be starting. Remember how good Jayron and Kyle were in their Sophomore years? Maybe it just takes that second off-season (Manning enrolled early) to get to the next level.

Rip his freaking head off!

Good point. But with two playmakers coming in, even if they're freshmen, I think that Manning might get relegated to the responsibility of giving Kendall/Antone/Cequan/Whoever It Is a breather when they need it.

We'll get to see it all play out in the next few months. And this is why I love Spring.

Another scenario to consider is Holland Fisher getting on campus and making a push at Rover. That could give Torrian the option to slide over Bonner / Jarrett to CB, especially in a nickle package, if he thinks that gets his best cover guys on the field.

With that, I think we'll be able to find 2 guys who can play regularly, and a third who can play the nickel out of this group:

Kyle Fuller
Kendall Fuller
Donovon Riley
Donaldven Manning
Davion Tookes
Derwoune Greene

I agree that if f Tone makes it back on the field, him and Kyle will obviously start, with Kyle sliding down to the nickle and Kendall playing at the opposite corner in passing downs.

Punt blocking on the way back?

Looking at those names, there has got to be some blocked punts this year. Bring back BeamerBall in a big way and put some starters on the punt " block" team. Watching the Power Hour video brought back memories of the WVA game in 2000 when starting running back had a rushing touchdown, had some kickoff and punt return yardage and blocked a punt.


Running back was.......

Forgot to give credit to the running back.......Lee Suggs



For mentioning Davion Tookes and Derwoune Greene. I feel like they have been completely forgotten about. I haven't seen much on them, but I don't think we should ignore two 4 star red shirt CB's.

I will be paying very close attention to those two at spring game to see if they will have an impact on the secondary.

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson

Agree on Tookes and Greene

And I think that a lot of people are writing off Riley there was a reason he was on the field at the end of the season and I think drew the praise of French for his play against FSU

UVA: Jefferson's biggest mistake


According to hokiesports, DerWoune Greene has been moved to wide receiver. Maybe the coaches are confident in the guys they have back there already. We're going to have 4 star talent depth at that position for the next couple of years.

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson

Just Want to Say Thanks

When I wrote the first part of this last week, I didn't expect it to receive the attention that it did. And then, today, to receive so many comments in the first two hours it was posted...

Thanks for the support! If you keep reading, I'll keep writing!

You asked a good question. Especially considering all of the factors - Exum's injury, lack of depth last year, The 4th Fuller, etc.

True. I guess I hastily concluded that it was because of the quality of my posts. Don't I feel like an arrogant bastard?

Fuller and its not close

Played way better competition. Jefferson played in an avg league for quite possibly the worst coached football team I have seen at any level.

Nelsonia Hokie

Worse than a London coached UVA team?

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

Tookes intrigues me

I really liked his HS tape. He looks really really fast, not sure how well he is adapting to the scheme though.

Another note, I think kick/punt returns should feature him, Mangus, JCC, and Knowles. I know Jarrett was great on punt returns but I get a little scared with an every down player returning

I understand the concern about every-down players being on special teams, but isn't that what made Beamerball do great things in its heyday? Eddie Royal, Justin Harper, Macho Harris returning kicks... Lee Suggs, starting tailback at the time blocking a punt...

I think that with more depth/talent coming in on the secondary this year, maybe Kyshoen could stay with the PR duties. Either that or everyman Kendall Fuller can take the job. I just think the potential reward is greater than the potential risk in this case. You don't want to keep a weapon like Kyshoen stowed away collecting dust when he could be gashing the competiton. Or Kendall for that matter when he becomes a staple on the defense.

My thoughts... I think

My thoughts...

I think Kendall need to add a few more muscles to his frame to handle tackling receivers on the collegiate level. I don't know if he's already hitting the weights in anticipation of competing for starting spot, but I think in order for Foster and Gray to feel comfortable throwing him to the wolves (in this case, Alabama's physical receivers), he needs to show he can handle the physical part of the game.

Manning, IMO, has a lot of upside and showed potential. Riley seem to need more polishing. The others, Tookes and Greene, are relative unknown but I'm sure they have busting their butt on the scout team.

Nothing wrong with a healthy competition this spring to push each other to be the starter in case Exum doesn't make it in time for the Alabama game.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.

My thoughts

Kendall Fuller without a doubt in my mind! But I think Manning will make an impact this season. I think he has matured a lot both on and off the field. Also he has put on some much needed weight. I follow him on Instagram and he posted a picture of the scale with his weight at around 180, and he commented that he was 137 when he enrolled. I think he'll be ready to contribute.

Welcome to the Site!

Thanks for the comment. I agree that Manning is ready to contribute, I just don't think that he will be THE contributor if Exum can't play.

Welcome to The Key Play!