After a 7-6 campaign that marked Virginia Tech's least successful season in over 20 years, the pressure is on the Hokies to pick the program back up and restore it to where it was before last season.
Virginia Tech hired three new assistant coaches in January as a step towards getting back, but it will be on the players to control what happens on the field.
In preparation for what will be an important 2013 campaign, we cast our votes for the 13 most important players to a successful season. This includes all aspects of the game, both offensively and defensively, but also special teams, like kicking and return.
Players received 13 points for each first place vote, 12 points for each second place vote, etc. In a case of a tie, the players voted on by more staff members won the tie-breaker. If both players had been voted on by the same number of staff members, the next tie-breaker is which player had the highest vote by a staff member.
We continue our countdown at No. 4 with cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Jason Stamm, publisher
There's a stable of young defensive backs for the Hokies. There's Donaldven Manning, Donovan Riley, Desmond Frye, Davion Tookes and true freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller among that group.
But Virginia Tech needs a veteran presence to help that group and stabilize the position.
Look no further than Kyle Fuller, who will be a senior this fall. This spring, he was constantly taking the younger defensive backs aside, instructing, listening and interacting. That's a good sign and one that will have to continue this fall.
The Hokies have another will-be senior who has also been a steady hand in the secondary in Antone Exum. But Exum is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered playing pick-up basketball in January. He's aiming to return for the season-opener, but that's anything but a given.
The one definite is Kyle Fuller, who had 52 tackles and a pair of interceptions last season. He'll need to play at least at that level for Virginia Tech's secondary to be successful.
And Fuller will need to keep spending time with the younger defensive backs, especially when he could be spending quite a bit of time on the field with his younger brother.
Doug Bowman, senior writer
Fuller struggled last year with injuries, which really hurt his chances of duplicating his 2011 success. With another season of work and a fully recovered body, I expect a return to the exceptional form he displayed in 2011.
It would also help Fuller, and the Virginia Tech defense, if Exum returns and a third cornerback emerges as a quality starter. That would allow Fuller to move to the nickel back role that he excelled at in 2011.
Just like Jack Tyler, defensive coordinator Bud Foster needs Kyle Fuller to produce this season. He is one of Foster's big guns and if the Hokies truly hope to put out a top-ten defense, the big guns are going to have to lead the unit.
Mike Stancik, staff writer
At "DBU", there has to be at least one shutdown player among the crew that is a game-changer. Logging in at number four on our list, Fuller is a future NFL cornerback that will be looked upon for a monster campaign.
The senior didn't quite perform up to expectations last year; he saw a decline in nearly every statistical category. But I probably wouldn't bet on that trend continuing.
Fuller's physical attributes are off the charts, and his mental drive isn't far behind as evidenced by his gutsy play while battling injuries for much of 2012. His personal stats might be reliant on his counterpart's performance on the other side of the field. (whoever it may be) However, you can be assured that the wide side of the field will be locked down in 2013.