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‘Absolute warrior’: Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente shares update on Jermaine Waller’s status

‘Absolute warrior’: Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente shares update on Jermaine Waller’s status

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BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente offered a few more details on cornerback Jermaine Waller’s status as the team prepares for a trip to Louisville.

Waller was limited throughout the offseason recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him at the end of the 2019 season. He made his season debut — and was in the starting lineup — on Oct. 10 against North Carolina, but his return was short-lived.

Fuente said Waller’s recent absence wasn’t related to the foot injury, but he didn’t offer any other specifics until Monday when he confirmed Waller suffered a separate injury at the end of the UNC game.

“He worked his tail off to come back, and through the circumstances we were in, was put in an unfair situation in my opinion and is healing up and hopefully will be back soon, but yeah it was in that game,” Fuente said.

The circumstance Fuente referenced was Divine Deablo, Keonta Jenkins and Brion Murray being out of the lineup and Chamarri Conner getting ejected for targeting in the first half of the 56-45 loss.

According to Pro Football Focus, Waller played 56 of Tech’s 66 defensive snaps. He also was forced to move to nickel — a position he never played before — in the fourth quarter.

“He played too much in that game to be honest with you,” Fuente said on Monday. “I thought he was an absolute warrior ... He was put in an unfair situation and I hate it for him, as were some of the other guys in that game.”

Waller, who had eight tackles (seven solo) and a pass breakup in the loss, was shaken up in the final minutes. Fuente mentioned Waller was playing with “one-arm” late in the game when he had to come out.

The cornerback was close to making a return against Wake Forest, but now he has his sights set on this weekend’s game against Louisville.

“It’s been real hard for him,” Fuente said. “He wants to play, he’s going to go play like I hope it’s this week, but he’s certainly on the mend.”

Tech has started Brion Murray alongside true freshman Dorian Strong in Waller’s absence with Armani Chatman coming off the bench. Strong had three tackles with one pass breakup on Saturday against Wake Forest and was called for pass interference late in the third quarter. Murray had four tackles with one for a loss.

Fellow backup cornerback Devin Taylor, a grad transfer from Illinois State, has taken over the starting spot at free safety with Deablo moving over to boundary safety.

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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