Tech’s Facyson hoping 2016 marks return to form
BLACKSBURG – Brandon Facyson sometimes pulls out game film from his 2013 season at Virginia Tech.
He insists it’s “just for the memories,” but what he sees on that tape is a freshman cornerback who led the Hokies with five interceptions in a defensive secondary that included three future NFL draft picks in cornerbacks Kendall and Kyle Fuller and safety Kyshoen Jarrett.
It’s been quite the bumpy ride for Facyson since that breakout collegiate debut.
Facyson suffered a concussion in late October of his freshman season, marking the beginning of an unsettling trend of injuries for the cornerback from Newnan, Georgia. He missed spring practice in 2014 due to a stress reaction in his left shin, returned to start three games that season before re-aggravating the injury, then suffered a broken leg in a December practice as Tech prepared to take on Cincinnati in the Military Bowl.
Facyson returned to play in all 13 games in 2015, but missed his third straight spring practice with a minor knee injury earlier this year. Now a redshirt junior, Facyson is hoping that string of maladies is behind him.
“I’m finally getting back to where I was and it feels good,” Facyson said at Tech’s media day on Aug. 14. “But just looking forward to a great season for all of us.”
For the Hokie defense to be “great” this fall, Facyson will certainly need to remain healthy. With the departure of Kendall Fuller – who missed most of his own junior season last year with a knee injury before declaring for the NFL Draft – Tech will be lacking experience at cornerback.
Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said redshirt sophomore Terrell Edmunds will move from corner to rover this season, leaving sophomore Adonis Alexander – who led the team with four interceptions in 2015 and will be suspended for the 2016 opener against Liberty – and junior Greg Stroman as the only other corners with significant playing experience.
With Facyson’s veteran status comes added responsibility. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Facyson said his freshman season was “definitely easier than it is now.”
“We were able to protect him quite a bit his freshman year,” Foster said. “He played more of a D-path, and we are going to ask him to do a little bit more. We want him to be around the ball and be at the line of scrimmage a little bit more. We want him to be more pressed and different things like that. I’m pleased with where he is and his mindset right now.”
In his 13 games played last season, Facyson recorded 31 tackles and led the Hokies with 10 pass breakups, although he didn’t record an interception (his last pick came in 2013).
Facyson and the rest of the defensive backs are now going through a transitional phase after Brian Mitchell was brought in last spring to replace Torrian Gray as the Hokies’ cornerbacks coach. Tech no longer operates with “field” and “boundary” corners and instead uses “left” and “right” cornerbacks that must know how to play both positions.
“You have to know both sides. You’re not specifically just to one side,” Facyson said. “And coach said that from the beginning, he wants us to learn both sides so there isn’t any trouble with injuries happening. But I think it’s a good move and we’re just (going to) keep pushing forward. We’ve just gotta take the role of learning both sides just in case injuries do happen, so you know at all times what you should be able to do, what you should be doing.”
Virginia Tech enjoyed solid play in the secondary in the Frank Beamer era under Gray – the Hokies began claiming the moniker “DBU” several years ago – and Facyson’s return to form could be key to helping that trend continue in 2016 under new head coach Justin Fuente.
“They teach us not just being a leader on the field, (but) being a leader off the field,” Facyson said of Tech’s success in the secondary. “You take care of the things off the field, you’re bound to take care of things on the field. It’s just everything from just their standpoint of being the best you can be on and off the field. But it’s just studying, you take that onto the field too, so it’s not really as much as just one particular thing, it’s everything. It’s just being a great person all around.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org