Fuller (VT), Dobbs (UT) Make 11 Number to Watch in 2016 Battle at Bristol
Last year sophomore cornerback Kendall Fuller shared the field with his older brother Kyle, the last of four Fuller brothers to play under Head Coach Frank Beamer. This year, the 2013 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year is emerging from his brothers' shadow and etching his own name into Virginia Tech lore.
"I told them this year I'm just rocking the Fuller," said Kendall, whose 2013 jersey read "Ke. Fuller" in an effort to help distinguish him from older brother Kyle.
Just Fuller has started every game of the 2014 season, leading the Hokies with five tackles in their opener against William & Mary and returning an interception 47-yards for a touchdown in the Hokies' Week 6 win against Carolina - a performance that also earned him ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.
A 20-year veteran at Virginia Tech, Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster feels Kendall has the potential to not only surpass his brothers but to eclipse Brandon Flowers - the 2008 second round draft pick that Foster considers the best defensive back ever to wear a Hokies uniform.
"I'm hoping in a couple years, he's going to be the best one," said Foster in an August 2014 interview. "He's a lot like Brandon Flowers, a lot like his brother. He's a little bigger, a little more physical, I think, than Kyle… So he's kind of in that line with Brandon, being a physical guy at the point of attack. But he has a great IQ."
In 2016, Kendall has an opportunity never afforded to Flowers or his three brothers as the Virginia Tech Hokies make history in the Battle at Bristol. With the Sept. 10 contest expected to draw upwards of 150,000 fans, Fuller and his teammates face the Tennessee Volunteers in front of the largest crowd in NCAA history.
As the Tennessee Volunteers build towards their future and the 2016 Battle at Bristol, fans and coaches have renewed optimism following the performance of sophomore quarterback Josh Dobbs in Saturday's loss to Alabama.
The Alpharetta, Ga. native rushed for 75-yards on 19 carries in his 2014 debut, the most by a Tennessee quarterback since Tee Martin ran for 81-yards against Syracuse in Sept. 1998. Also effective with his arm, Dobbs threw for 192 yards on 19-of-32 with two touchdown passes.
While Dobbs provided a much-needed spark to the Vols offense, Head Coach Butch Jones still sees room for improvement in the young signal caller.
"We have to continue to build," Jones said. "He needs to get better next week, if he's our quarterback. It's all learning now. He has the live game opportunities now this year, and I think that the live opportunities he had last year proved to be very beneficial.
"I thought he was poised. I thought he was very calm and collected. But again, he has to continue to build on his mistakes and continue to rectify them and improve, and he will."
As he continues to improve, Dobbs may be poised to lead the Volunteer offense onto college football's largest stage - the 2016 Battle at Bristol. In less than two years, NASCAR's iconic short track transforms into the NCAA's biggest venue as the Sept. 10 contest pits the Vols against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The game is expected to draw more than 150,000 fans and shatter current NCAA attendance records.