The Virginia Tech Hokies received some tough news last week when rising sophomore defensive back Michael Cole was forced to give up football after a November neck injury.
Cole wasn't a star yet, but once defensive coordinator Bud Foster gave Cole significant playing time in 2012, the defense got better. Cole, a safety, even started four games as the team's nickelback. He played in 10 games and finished with 43 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Cole was a physical player with very good athletic ability. His biggest attribute, however, was his advanced knowledge of the defense. Foster and Cole's teammates trusted Cole with his assignments which allowed the defense more flexibility to be aggressive.
The Hokies' secondary had very little depth in 2012—Cole's departure, along with senior cornerback Antone Exum's knee injury, has increased the pressure on an impressive group of young players.
Fortunately for the Hokies, they just signed one of the more impressive recruiting classes in recent school history. Six of those signees are expected to play defensive back.
Here are three players who could help fill Cole's shoes early in 2013.