When Virginia Tech star cornerback Caleb Farley opted out of the 2020 season this week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hokie fans went into full-blown panic mode.
Throughout the offseason, Farley was named to numerous preseason All-American teams and the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Earlier in the week, 247Sports named Farley as the No. 16 overall player in college football for 2020.
While the Hokies lost their best player — and arguably the top cornerback in college football — they still have another cornerback who is pretty good, too.
Jermaine Waller, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior from Washington, D.C., played in all 13 games for the Hokies last fall, starting 10 games. He was named honorable mention All-ACC.
Unfortunately for Waller, he was overshadowed by Farley. However, it was more than Virginia Tech fans who noticed Waller’s ability. Pro Football Focus had Waller graded high in a number of categories.
On Friday, the ACC Digital Network released its list of the top returning cornerbacks in the ACC and Waller received the top spot.
Waller made tremendous strides from his freshman campaign to his sophomore season. The hope is he will take another step in 2020.
Waller’s presence is big for new defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton. Now, the Hokies need Armani Chatman, Brion Murray and Nadir Thompson to all step up in 2020.
Chatman played in all 13 games in 2019, making three starts. While he had his share of struggles at times, he did show he could play at this level. The experience he gained as a freshman should benefit him in 2020.
Murray, a junior-college transfer last season, could be the guy to watch in 2020.
Losing Farley was a major blow to the 2020 team. The hope is the new defensive staff can generate a bit more pass rush combined with some zone coverage to help alleviate the inexperience opposite of Waller.
In the past when the Hokies lost a top defensive back, you never worried because the next man up was going to be just fine. Hamilton certainly hopes that’s the case this fall.