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Virginia Tech shores up cornerback spot

Virginia Tech fans got a glimpse of what the Hokies' future secondary might look like when Cris Hill was forced into a starting role opposite mainstay Rashad Carmichael because of Stephan Virgil's academic ineligibility for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

But with spring practice getting underway on Wednesday, Carmichael, a rising senior, is set to start at the boundary cornerback while Jayron Hosley, a rising sophomore, will open practice as the starter at field cornerback. Hill is backing up Carmichael.

"It’s an important spring for Cris Hill," Coach Frank Beamer said Monday afternoon in a teleconference. "He’s a guy with a lot of talent, and we want him to step up."

Hill was inconsistent last season, but he started in place of Virgil in the Hokies' win over Tennessee in the bowl game last December. He played at the boundary cornerback in that game, and Carmichael moved to field cornerback because Virginia Tech's coaches thought that gave them the best match ups.

The boundary cornerback is responsible for man-on-man coverage from the hashes to the sideline, often against an opposing team's best receiver, and has to be physical as a run-stopper. The field cornerback roams large areas of the weakside in zone defense.

Last season, Virgil was supposed to play boundary cornerback, but suffered a knee injury in a season-opening loss to Alabama that affected his play throughout the year. Carmichael emerged as a standout and moved to the boundary. Virgil finished out his career in the field.

Carmichael seems poised to have a breakout senior season. He was a quick study and developed into a more instinctual player last year.

Hosley dazzled with his punt returning ability as a freshman, but coaches were quick to remind that he was brought to Blacksburg for his talent in the secondary. Hosley is a gifted athlete with the tools to play a big part, but was lacking experience and savvy.

By Mark Viera  |  March 30, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
 
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