Happy with his decision to return, Facyson now the senior leader in Tech's secondary

Virginia Tech Football News Conference (April 4)
Head coach Justin Fuente quotes

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s secondary already faced a challenge this spring with the departure of steady Chuck Clark, but it nearly suffered another setback when word came out in early January about Brandon Facyson’s flirtation with making himself available for the NFL Draft.

Hokie Nation, though, exhaled when Facyson made the decision in mid-January to return to Tech for his final season.

“It was something that me and my family discussed for some time and ultimately think I made the right decision to come back,” Facyson said. “It’s another year to perfect what I need to perfect. We’re all going to do great and do our roles and get this team to an ACC championship and national championship. That’s our ultimate goal. I think I made the right decision to come back.”

Now, Facyson serves as an anchor in the Hokies’ secondary, as the Tech football program continues with its spring practice this April. The Hokies are almost at the halfway point, holding practice No. 7 of 15 on Tuesday evening.

Facyson is the lone senior of a secondary searching to get settled this spring. Tech’s staff moved Terrell Edmunds from rover to free safety to replace Clark, and the coaches continue to look at several players at the rover spot, including rising sophomore Reggie Floyd. Greg Stroman, a nine-game starter in 2016, is missing spring practice with an injury, creating more uncertainty.

All that leaves Facyson and Adonis Alexander as the only secondary members returning to their same spots as last season. That, in turn, means that Facyson needs to be a leader of the group.

In the past, he has been reluctant to be vocal – but not this spring.

“When I got here, we had Antone [Exum] and Kyle [Fuller] and Kyshoen [Jarrett] and [Detrick] Bonner,” Facyson said. “I didn’t really have to speak much. I just followed along. Now that those guys are gone, it’s almost as if it was handed down to you to pick up that leadership role and try to do everything right on and off the field – and be more vocal with things, especially since I wasn’t before. But I think it’s been going pretty well.”

Facyson also expects to more than just a leader for Tech. He expects to be a dominant player.

Coaches and fans expected that when he caught everyone’s attention as a true freshman in 2013. He started nine games and had five interceptions, but he spent the next two seasons battling injuries and never really played to his capabilities as a result.

He returned last season and started all 14 games. Yet last season just served to knock the rust off. This spring, he feels great and ready for a big 2017 season.

“It’s always nice when you remain injury free,” he said. “I'm just going to continue to work on that and do everything I need to do to stay injury free. I’m taking it day by day. Just a lot of maintenance stuff. There are things I feel that I can get better at in the training room and the weight room. Just a lot of strength and stuff like that for maintenance, so that I can remain healthy.”

Facyson hopes good health helps end his interception-less streak – one that has stretched to 32 games. In fact, after intercepting five passes as a true freshman, he hasn’t intercepted one since that season.

That bothers him, as the tone of his voice suggested recently when discussing the issue. He nearly picked off two against Liberty, and his 21 pass breakups the past two seasons means he’s around the ball. But nothing matches getting that pick.

“I think I’m a better player than I was my freshman year,” he said. “I did come up and had five interceptions, and it hasn’t been that way the past couple of years, but that’s OK because I think I’m a better player than I was my freshman year when I came. I wasn’t really relying on athletic ability, but was relying on the system a lot more.

“I’m a lot better now. Those things are going to come. Everyone keeps making a big deal about the whole interception thing, but they’re going to come. I’m a ball hawk. I’m going to get balls. I have no worries about that. I’ll do what I need to do on the field and off the field [to get interceptions], whether that’s catching more balls or doing whatever I need to do. They’re going to come.”

But he admits that getting the secondary right is the most important thing, and that means helping young cornerbacks such as Jovonn Quillen, Tyree Rodgers and Caleb Farley to learn as much as possible about playing the position. He expressed confidence in all of his teammates in the secondary.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Facyson said. “We lost a couple of guys, and those guys did a great job last year, but I feel the guys coming in and filling those spots are doing a great job this year. I don’t think we’re nervous about anything. I think we’ve built a lot more confidence. We’re a lot hungrier. We want to be the best defense in the nation.”

Tech fans will get a glimpse of this group’s progress in a couple of weeks at the Maroon-Orange Spring Game. The game kicks at 2:30 p.m. on April 22.

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