Every day here at Your Best 11, we are counting down to the start of the regular season with our Top 150 players for the 2012 season.
No. 110: Antone Exum, No. 1, Virginia Tech, Cornerback
Antone Exum finished 2011 just a few votes away from being on the All-ACC football team. He took his honorable mention listing into spring, on the path to getting onto the list as one of the league's top safeties.
However, plans changed as the Hokies moved Exum to cornerback to fill the void left by Jayron Hosley. Through spring, the rising junior learned the position, and heading into 2012, he looks to build upon the success he's already had at the safety spot.
Exum is a hell of a defensive back. He led the Hokies in tackles a season ago and put up 10 pass breakups in addition to his five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
In transitioning to cornerback, the skills that Exum already has—vision, change of direction and ability to close on the football—will still be assets to Bud Foster's defense.
Physically, Exum is ready to play the cornerback position. He is big physical presence and can run down the field. He will be able to force the issue in the run game the way Foster expects his cornerbacks to.
Exum also has experience playing man coverage, which will help him out tremendously in 2012.
As Exum mentions in this YouTube video, his weakness is clear: repetitions. Or, more specifically, his lack of repetitions at the position.
Safety to corner is a big transition from a technical standpoint. The keys are different, the drops are different, the adjustments are different and the only true way to get comfortable in the position is to get more reps in the spot.
There are going to be moments when his safety instincts, such as reading the quarterback, forcing on run and pushing to the outside, cloud Exum's mind. Limiting those can only come through the on-field repetitions that Exum will get during the season.
Bud Foster makes great defensive backs. Exum was on the verge of being the next great Virginia Tech safety. Instead, he's now helping out the cornerback spot and giving the Hokies a player that will be solid opposite Kyle Fuller.
Because Fuller is such a solid player, expect Exum to have his work cut out for him early in the season until he proves himself. That means more opportunity to make plays and plenty of tackles to be made.
While Exum won't lead the Hokies in tackles as he did a season ago, he will look to improve upon his pass breakups and interceptions.