Virginia Tech Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

Virginia Tech Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013

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    Four weeks into the 2013 season, many things have gone as planned for the Virginia Tech Hokies. The defense has been outstanding, while the offense has struggled.

    Fortunately for the Hokies, several true and redshirt freshmen have seen action for the first time. The results are encouraging thus far.

    Some players, like Kendall Fuller, arrived on campus with expectations of contributing right away. Fuller has not disappointed. Has another freshman surprised us? Or has an upperclassman stepped up and taken advantage of a new-found opportunity?

    Here are the five players who have surprised us the most four games into this season.

Nigel Williams

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    Before the season, defensive coordinator Bud Foster was unsure who would be the top backups to his starting defensive tackles, Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins. 

    It didn't take Foster long to get his answer.

    Against Alabama, Williams sacked AJ McCarron and harassed him on several other occasions. Over the past several weeks, Williams has continued to get more playing time, and his role will likely increase throughout the season.

    In four games, Williams has a sack and four tackles for loss. Look for Williams to start in 2014 once Hopkins graduates. 

Brandon Facyson

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    When Facyson enrolled in January, not many around the Virginia Tech program expected him to be a key contributor in 2013. However, Facyson was impressive in spring practice and essentially guaranteed himself an opportunity this season.

    At 6'2", Facyson has outstanding size for a cornerback. He also has terrific ball skills and leads the Hokies with three interceptions. He is also second on the team with four passes defensed.

    Facyson is continuously around the football and is a future star for the Hokies. 

Trey Edmunds

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    Edmunds' success isn't necessarily a surprise. At 6'1", 215 pounds with blazing speed, most expected Edmunds to succeed. However, it was his 77-yard touchdown run against Alabama that made everyone take notice.

    J.C. Coleman's injury has forced Edmunds to be the Hokies' primary ball-carrier. While Edmunds' numbers were down against East Carolina in Week 3, he rebounded against Marshall with his second 100-yard game of the season. Edmunds currently leads the Hokies with 361 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

    If the offensive line and passing game become more consistent, Edmunds will be even better. He is having a good season without a lot of help. 

Jonathan McLaughlin

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    McLaughlin's rise up the depth chart at Virginia Tech is an impressive one. He signed with the Hokies last December and enrolled in January.

    With the departure of last season's starting left tackle, there was a vacancy at the position. Injuries and underwhelming options at the spot in the spring gave McLaughlin an opportunity. He took it and ran with it.

    McLaughlin entered fall camp atop the depth chart at left tackle and never relinquished it. He was solid against Alabama and their talented pass-rushers in the season opener and did not allow a sack. 

    New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has continued moving around his offensive linemen in order to find his best five. McLaughlin is one player who has remained. That is pretty impressive for a true freshman playing such a difficult position.

Willie Byrn

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    Perhaps no one on Virginia Tech's roster is as big of a surprise as Willie Byrn. A redshirt junior and former walk-on, Byrn received his opportunity after the the Hokies' WRs struggled so badly against Alabama.

    He is now Logan Thomas' most-trusted target. Throughout the past three weeks, when Thomas needed a first down, he looked to Byrn. Not only does Byrn run good routes, but he also has excellent hands and surprising speed. 

    Byrn has several qualities that remind many of former Hokie great Danny Coale. Look for him to continue to be a factor moving forward.