The Best Nickel Cornerback in College Football: Donovan Riley


Apr 20, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Donovan Riley (2) intercepts a pass in front of Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Joshua Stanford (5) during the Virginia Tech Hokies spring game at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Some players have had very good springs in the past for the Virginia Tech Hokies and there are a few players that prove the depth the Hokies have and how they could start at many major programs but are instead backups in Blacksburg. Unsurpsingly, more players like DE Ken Ekanem and S Chuck Clark were among those who made major spring surges but there was also one cornerback in particular who proved that he is the best nickel cornerback in college football.

Early on in Spring Practice, cornerback Brandon Facyson suffered an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the spring but this gave other cornerbacks the opportunity to step up their game and prove why they should be the backup for Facyson and Kendall Fuller. There was one major standout this spring that proved that he is the best nickel cornerback in college football.

That man is Donovan Riley.

Donovan Riley will be a junior in the fall and he did not play that much in his first two years in Blacksburg on defense due to the significan amount of talent Virginia Tech has had at cornerback. Riley has spent a lot of time on special teams while he started to get some chances on defenses this past fall. One of those opportunities came late against Alabama when the Hokies decided to give some less experienced players like Riley a chance to get game experience. Riley would end up with 2 tackles in that game and would not really make much of an impact after that.

Sep 26, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Brandon Facyson (31) celebrates an interception with cornerback Kendall Fuller (11) in the first half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

This spring, Donovan Riley took off in practices and was quite impressive in the spring scrimmages as he battled to be the Hokies’ third cornerback behind Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson. Riley’s strong spring was proven by the fact that he was the starter across from Kendall Fuller at cornerback on the Virginia Tech depth chart. Of course, that was due to the fact that Brandon Facyson was injured but it just proved that the coaches were big on Riley.

Then, Donovan Riley had one of the best games of any Hokie in the Spring Game and made a statement that he is definitely the best third cornerback in all of college football. Riley had been stuck behind many talented players but Riley is now getting the chance to touch the field consistently and he has stepped up his game to a high level.

Riley had an interception in the game and was just rock solid throughout the game to finish off his strong spring in a very good way. Donovan Riley is a very solid cornerback that has very good zone understanding while also being a guy that can be relied on to dominate an opposing third receiver in man coverage. Riley also has the speed to handle some of the faster receivers that he will likely have to cover in the slot. Donovan Riley is a guy that Virginia Tech fans will get to know very well as the best nickel cornerback in college football this fall.

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