Virginia Tech cornerback Jermaine Waller is a prospect I couldn’t wait to watch in 2021 and he has not disappointed. Waller was outstanding in 2019, pairing with Caleb Farley to form one of the best cornerback tandems in all of college football.
While Farley’s 2019 campaign was good enough to make him a first-round selection despite opting out of the 2020 season and having an alarming injury history, Waller was every bit as good. In 2019, Waller had an impressive forced incompletion rate of 31.4% and limited opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 57.6 against his coverage. When targeted 10-plus yards down the field, Waller limited opponents to a catch percentage of 20.7, which was good for third-best in the Power Five. In 13 games, Waller logged 10 pass breakups, three interceptions, and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Waller wasn’t able to build upon a dominant 2019 season in 2020 due to injuries. He missed the first two games in 2020 due to recovery from offseason foot surgery and then suffered an undisclosed arm injury which forced him to miss all but one of the Hokies’ remaining games. He only played in two games in 2020, making 2021 an important opportunity for Waller to re-emerge as an NFL prospect. He’s done exactly that.
While Waller has been outstanding in coverage and continues to make it difficult for quarterbacks to complete passes his way, it’s his ball production that is turning heads. Waller has intercepted a pass in four of Virginia Tech’s first five games of the season to go with six passes defended. Waller currently leads the country in interceptions and is second in the ACC in passes defended. His most recent interception was a pick-six against Notre Dame.
Waller began his high school career as a quarterback, where he topped 2,600 passing yards and 24 touchdowns before changing schools and converting to defense. He collected six interceptions as a junior and it quickly became clear that his future was as a defensive back.
At every turn in his journey as a cornerback, his ability to take away the football shines. He has good length, quickness, fluidity, speed, physicality, and coverage instincts, but the ability to make impact plays on the football make him the total package. The Hokies defense sets him up well for life in the NFL because he’s tasked with playing a variety of coverage techniques and Waller is proficient in zone, man, and press coverage. He’s a universal scheme fit at the next level and is a more than willing tackler.
It’s no secret that the NFL is a passing league and the value of the cornerback position couldn’t be higher. As more and more dynamic receivers and quarterbacks enter the NFL, players that can defend the pass are critical. Now that Waller is healthy and again thriving for Virginia Tech, I expect the buzz surrounding him to keep rising.
Waller features a valuable skill set at a premium position. Should he make himself available for the 2022 NFL Draft, a potentially deep crop of cornerbacks becomes even deeper.
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