Before the season even started, arguably the deepest area on the field for Virginia Tech was its secondary. With a mix of experience, young talent and quality backups, it was a position that was expected to get even better last month with the return of senior cornerback Antone Exum's return from a torn ACL and meniscus.
But the Hokies have had less than a quarter in which they had their top defensive backs ready to go and no time with a fully healthy unit.
The position took yet another hit Saturday at Miami when Exum and senior cornerback Kyle Fuller each left the game due to injury. Assistant coach Torrian Gray made a few in-game adjustments, but Virginia Tech still allowed a big chunk of passing yards. The unit still isn't healthy, raising more question marks going into the final two regular season games.
The biggest adjustment came from sophomore Detrick Bonner. In addition to his normal free safety position, Bonner lined up at bandit and nickel corner.
"You have to know every position on the field," Bonner said. "You have to know what the nickel's doing, the field corner, sometimes boundary. Them moving me, it wasn't a hard adjustment, but I had to work on my mind a little bit there."
For Gray, given the circumstances, it was an easy decision. Fuller, who's been battling a strained groin for a few weeks, came out early in the first half, while Exum left the game with a sprained ankle in the second quarter. Bonner though, was Gray's best option, as freshman Chuck Clark didn't even make the trip with a sprained ankle.
"Fortunately, he has a high football IQ," Gray said. "We'll try to limit to where he won't have to play more than two positions. Right now, it's just the package that we had in. Without Kyle or Antone, we're just showing wer still want the running package because that's what we practiced last week. He had enough mental capacity to be able to do it and allow us to function, so it's just a heck of an effort by him to mentally be able to do all those things which allow us to be mentally flexible."
Fuller practiced yesterday in a green jersey for no contact, while Clark was limited contact in blue. Exum missed practice for undisclosed reasons. Bonner hopes to have his running mates back, but he's also willing to step in to whatever role is needed.
"You don't wanna see guys go down, but you're as strong as your weakest link," he said. That's like, our motto right now. If our youngest, if he's a good player, then he's gotta know that any time, he could be the next guy in the game. Of course, it's heartbreaking to see them go down and stuff, but we've gotta know we've gotta keep building as a group."
This is where the depth of the position really shows.
Click Here to view this video.