- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster knew something had to be done after the Hokies gave up 530 yards in last season’s 52-49 loss to California in the Insight Bowl.

A year and several position changes later, No.9 Virginia Tech (10-2) is ranked fourth in total defense (265 yards a game), third in scoring defense (12.58 points) and fourth in turnovers (30) heading into today’s Sugar Bowl against No.3 Auburn (12-0).

Foster’s first and perhaps most significant move was to have junior free safety Jimmy Williams and senior cornerback Vincent Fuller swap positions.

“In the preseason, I told media that it was a move that would make our coaches look like geniuses, and it just so happened that’s the way it turned out,” said Fuller, an honorable mention free safety on this year’s All-ACC team.

Fuller’s flexibility allowed Foster to move Williams to cornerback to help offset the loss of DeAngelo Hall, who was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons.

“Jimmy is one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached here,” Foster said. “When we lost DeAngelo, we needed to find that physical boundary at corner to back our run support game.

“Jimmy was the guy we looked at. He has good coverage skills and he’s physical — he really made strides in the latter part of the season in his techniques and fundamentals.”

Williams (6-foot-3, 213 pounds) finished with four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in a 55-6 win against Maryland, and tied for the ACC lead by defending 18 passes. Though he started slow, Williams finished on the ACC’s first team.

“You could see Jimmy getting more comfortable as the year went on,” Fuller said. “He gets to the ball so fast.”

Meanwhile, Fuller has excelled as a field general.

“Vincent was the guy who was kind of the coach on the field,” Foster said. “He really had a lot of confidence in making checks and calls, not that Jimmy couldn’t do it but Vincent was a little more vocal from that standpoint. It was really those moves right there that were the keys to our success all the way around.”

The changes on defense were not limited to the secondary. Senior end Jim Davis voluntarily switched to an interior line position because he saw a crowded exterior. And after sitting out 2003 with a torn pectoral muscle, Davis was All-ACC second team at tackle.

“Jim said, ‘Hey, I’ll do whatever it takes,’” Foster said. “That move for us … gave us a playmaker inside we definitely needed.”

“Inside is where the real men are,” Davis said.

Junior Darryl Tapp, a first-team All-ACC selection at defensive end with a team-high 8 sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 23 quarterback hurries, said Davis was the quiet team leader.

“A lot of media hype goes to [quarterback] Bryan [Randall], but he’s our unspoken leader. He leads by example a lot of times,” Tapp said.

“I don’t think there’s one superstar on this team. We all want to go out there and hit somebody,” Davis said. “The cohesion of the group — I don’t know if you’ll find it anywhere in America like this. It’s been the ride of my life this year.”

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