Heading into the 2020 season, Virginia Tech football was expected to have one of the top cornerback tandems in the country. Caleb Farley was coming off a First Team All-ACC season where he led the ACC with 16 passes defended. On the other side, Jermaine Waller put together an Honorable Mention All-ACC season where he was fifth in the conference with 13 passes defensed.
However, Farley opted out of the season in July and Waller was riddled with injuries the entire year, only playing in three games. Now, Farley is expected to be a top 10 pick in next month’s NFL Draft while Waller is back with a chip on his shoulder.
“Of course, just getting back in rhythm and technique is always going to be a factor hurt or not or out or not,” Waller said. “I’m definitely full go. I’ve been having fun with the guys. We’ve been working. Everything has been good so far.
“It was an accumulation of multiple things. It was definitely frustrating at times. Just being able to be around the guys still and watch the work they put in kept me afloat. Now I’m back so I get to work with them.”
“No, definitely not worried about injuries,” Waller said. “It was just a setback at the time, but it’s nothing that’s going to stop me from doing what I want to do and doing what I want to do for the team. That’s behind me now and [I’m] just working on being better.”
In Waller’s absence last season, it opened the door for a number of younger corners to be forced into action. In particular, true freshman Dorian Strong took advantage of the opening and excelled as the top-rated cornerback for Virginia Tech by PFF. In addition, other players like Armani Chatman and Brion Murray got plenty of snaps.
The experience that those cornerbacks were able to garner in an odd 2020 season only bodes well moving forward with the full return of Waller to the fold.
“I feel like we have a championship room and can win with whoever we put out there,” Waller said. “I definitely have seen a lot. Now in the spring seeing the group from last season with me and my teammates is definitely big.
“We’re all getting a lot better from last season to now. Seeing a lot of progress throughout the season. I think we have the top [room] in the country.”
Tae Daley Fitting In Fine
At the end of December, Virginia Tech landed Vanderbilt transfer Tae Daley for an added boost at the boundary safety position. Daley did not play in the 2020 season but recorded 57 tackles and three interceptions in his last year with the Commodores.
Darryl Tapp played a big role in getting Daley to Blacksburg before he took off for the NFL. Now, Daley is certain he has found the right place for him.
“I’ve been a fan of Virginia Tech football for quite some time,” Daley said. “In high school, I used to watch Kyle Fuller, his highlight tape before every game. I’ve been accustomed with the DBs that went to Tech.
“As far as my decision to come here, I really wanted to stay in the Power Five just to display my abilities at the top level. As far as when I looked up Virginia Tech coming in from December, I looked at some practice films and just some things that were on YouTube. This is the place for me. Everything happened for a reason. I’m at where I’m supposed to be.”
Those around the program have already seen the impact Daley has had in the program. He’s taken on a leadership role in such a short amount of time on campus.
“[Tae’s] a dog. I’m telling you, he’s wired different,” Hollifield said last week. “I’ve come to respect him a lot over the last couple weeks and months since spring semester started. He’s a dude, and I’m excited to see what he does on the field. Vocal with how he leads. It’s pretty incredible to see a guy come in for just a couple weeks and basically take hold of the team.”
For Daley, it all comes from a willingness of trying to bring the best out of everyone around him.
“For the most part, if I see something wrong, I don’t have a problem calling it out,” Daley said. “If somebody sees me doing something wrong, I want them to call me out and let me know I’m doing something wrong, that way I can fix it. I told them before, ‘We’re all here for the same goal. We’re all trying to win.’”
“It’s just understanding new terminology and vocabulary,” Daley said. “For the most part, it’s been coming along.
“It’s football, so there’s definitely a lot of things that are similar. As far as the way that we do certain things, I can tell the difference from here and where I came from. Like I said before, I love being here. I’m excited for this opportunity.”
Tae Daley – High School Soccer Star?
Football wasn’t the only sport that Daley showcased his athletic abilities at Northside High School in Georgia. Daley also found an adeptness on the soccer pitch.
“I picked up soccer my sophomore year just to keep busy and stay out of trouble,” Daley said. “I ended up falling in love with it. I was pretty good at it. The first time I made Second Team All-Region and Second Team All-State. My second year I made First Team everything. I could have went and played soccer, but football was my first love, so I had to stick with that.”
Up until that point in high school, Daley had never played organized soccer. Over the years, he had only played some pickup games outside with friends, a pretty amazing fact for someone who earned the opportunity to play soccer at the Division II level following his high school career.
Daley was a bruising centerback on defense for his high school soccer team. It’s a position where a lot translates from the soccer pitch to the football field.
“Definitely playing centerback and playing safety, I’m the last line of defense in both positions,” Daley said. “It definitely helped me stay aware of people that’s around you and bursting, flipping, closing ground. A lot of things in that nature.”