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July 27, 2012
As he prepares to make his college choice this weekend, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel cornerback Kendall Fuller faces the same dilemma that vexes every younger brother who follows his siblings into Division I football.
"I'm just looking for a place where I'll be 100 percent comfortable being there three or four years," Fuller said.
Fuller tweeted Friday morning that he plans to announce his college selection Sunday. His family includes former Virginia Tech cornerback Vincent Fuller and two players on Virginia Tech's current roster: fifth-year senior split end Corey Fuller and junior cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Vincent Fuller is a former fourth-round draft pick with seven seasons of NFL experience, while Kyle Fuller earned second-team all-ACC honors last fall and heads into this season as one of the nation's top cornerbacks. Corey Fuller initially enrolled at Kansas as part of the Jayhawks' track team, but he transferred to Virginia Tech in 2010 and is now a two-sport athlete.
Those family connections made Fuller seem like a lock to sign with Virginia Tech at one point, but it now looks more like a coin flip. After visiting both Virginia Tech and Clemson over the last two weeks, Fuller indicated he was "50-50" between the two schools. Fuller also has listed Michigan among the schools he's considering, but this looks more like a Virginia Tech-Clemson competition.
How torn is he? Fuller showed up for a Virginia Tech camp two weeks ago with the "VT" logo shaved into one side of his head and the Clemson tiger paw on the other side.
"I think a lot of people expected him to visit a few schools, flirt with a few schools and then choose Virginia Tech," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "But this is a really, really tough decision for him to make. I think that's what makes this an intriguing situation to follow."
Fuller isn't the only recruit in the 2013 class who had to make this type of decision.
Destrehan (La.) all-purpose athlete Rickey Jefferson, the younger brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, committed to LSU two weeks ago. Wayne (N.J.) Hills quarterback Kevin Olsen has committed to Miami, where his brother Greg developed into a first-round draft pick as a tight end.
On the other hand, Centerville (Ohio) defensive end Jake Replogle has committed to Purdue, even though he has three older brothers who are current or former players at Indiana. If Replogle sticks to his commitment, he could end up playing against one of his brothers, current sophomore linebacker Mike Replogle.
But Fuller's scenario stands out a bit, much in the same way he stands out every time he takes the field.
In a family that includes an NFL veteran and an All-America candidate, Kendall eventually could become the best Fuller of all.
He heads into his senior season as the No. 1 cornerback and No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2013. Kyle Fuller was a three-star prospect from Baltimore (Md.) Mount St. Joseph in 2010, while Vincent Fuller signed with Virginia Tech before the current version of Rivals.com formed in 2002.
Fuller has good size at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. He also runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. So he has all the physical tools necessary to succeed as a Division I cornerback. But it's his uncanny instincts that make him an elite prospect.
"He's not the fastest cornerback I've ever scouted," Farrell said. "He's not the biggest cornerback I've ever scouted. But he's the most instinctual. He just knows what the receiver is going to do at the same time the receiver does. You can't beat him on a double move. The only way to beat him is if he slips and falls down. That's the only way I've ever seen him beat."
Fuller also has an ideal work ethic.
As he discussed Fuller's never-ending hunger to improve, Farrell cited Good Counsel's game last year with Baltimore (Md.) Gilman. Fuller fell down on a play, allowing 2012 Alabama signee and Rivals100 prospect Cyrus Jones to beat him on a fly pattern for a touchdown.
Even though Good Counsel went on to win the game, Fuller couldn't forget about that touchdown.
"When I talked to him after the game, he was so hard on himself for that one play," Farrell said. "It was a big play that led to a touchdown, but he's the type of kid who always focuses on the things he needs to change to improve, rather than the things he did well. That's the mentality that sets him apart, along with the instincts."
Kyle Fuller said he isn't surprised by his younger brother's emergence.
"I look at him and when I watch him at 7-on-7s and stuff, I'm laughing because he's really good out there," the Virginia Tech junior said. "I'm proud of him. He works hard for it. I've been seeing this the last couple of years, and it's really starting to show."
Certainly the family ties also have aided his development.
"He's learned a lot from us, stuff that we may have not known he's learned," Kyle Fuller said. "We watch him do something and be like, 'Where'd you get that from?' I watch games with him and I talk to him a lot about leverage. He's a student of the game. He is learning."
Kendall could get the chance to play alongside Kyle at Virginia Tech. Kyle still has two years of eligibility remaining, as he would begin his senior season when Kendall arrived for his freshman year.
Of course, that assumes Kendall signs with Virginia Tech and Kyle stays in school for his senior year. The web site nfldraftscout.com rates Kyle Fuller as a potential fourth-round pick if he chooses to enter the draft next year.
While Virginia Tech offers familiarity and comfort, Clemson would give Fuller the opportunity to forge his own path. Fuller insists the family connection to Virginia Tech won't necessarily play a role in his decision.
"You've got to choose a school based on how you're going to do and how you're going to fit in there," Fuller said. "It's not about your family or anything else."
Does he feel any pressure from his siblings as he ponders his decision?
"Not at all," he said.
Fuller's family isn't the only reason he might want to choose Virginia Tech. After all, the Hokies have won at least 10 games in eight consecutive seasons, the longest such streak of any FBS program. Virginia Tech also has produced five All-America cornerbacks over the last nine seasons: DeAngelo Hall (2003), Jimmy Williams (2005), Brandon Flowers (2006 and 2007), Victor "Macho" Harris (2008) and Jayron Hosley (2010).
Clemson also has plenty to offer. Clemson beat Virginia Tech twice last season, including a 38-10 rout in the ACC championship game. Clemson has a commitment from four-star linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, one of Fuller's high school teammates.
Clemson already pulled a couple of major surprises in this recruiting cycle by landing a commitment from the nation's top overall prospect in Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and luring four-star defensive tackle Scott Pagano from Honolulu (Hawaii) Moanalula.
Considering the family connections to Virginia Tech, getting Fuller probably would represent Clemson's biggest shocker yet.
"If I had to bet today, I think the safe money would be on Virginia Tech still," Farrell said. "But it's a lot, lot closer than anyone expected this to be."