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Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley opts out of 2020 season

Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley opts out of 2020 season

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BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley on Wednesday said he has opted out of the 2020 season.

Farley sent a video explaining his decision to ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter. His message was released by Schefter on Twitter shortly before the ACC announced a massive overhaul of its 2020 football schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus also played a roll in Farley's decision.

“After much consideration with my family, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 college football season and begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft,” Farley said surrounded by his father, Robert, and brother Joshua. “I am opting out due to uncertain health conditions and regulations and all the other opt outs going in football right now.

"I tragically lost my mother Robin Jan. 2, 2018, to an illness, and I can not afford to lose another parent or loved one. Though the competitor in me badly wants to play this season, I can’t ignore what’s going in my heart. I must make the decision that brings me the most peace. Thank you Virginia Tech, my coaches, my teammates and anybody that has supported me in the past.”

The decision was quite sudden. Farley participated in a walk-through practice in Blacksburg on Tuesday afternoon.

He was named to the preseason watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year), Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player) and Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back) this month.

Farley was named first-team All-ACC last year with a league-leading 16 passes defended, and he ranked second in the conference with four interceptions.

Farley missed the final two games of the season (including the Belk Bowl) with a back injury that he suffered lifting weights earlier in the year. He was expected to miss spring camp after having offseason surgery, but opened fall camp without any limitations.

Draft experts considered the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder a potential first-round pick for next season.

It was a quick rise for Farley, who signed with Tech out of high school as a three-star athlete out of Maiden High School in North Carolina who had never played cornerback. The then-high school quarterback enrolled early and hoped to play on the offensive side of the ball, but started out his first spring at defensive back. He had a breakout spring game at receiver in 2017 and looked like he would be an early contributor that fall until he tore his ACL on the first day of fall camp.

While he was rehabbing, he was asked to move back to the defense, a position that was hit hard by attrition.

Pro Football Focus, an analytics website, graded Farley as the fourth-best returning player in the ACC behind only Duke defensive end Chris Rumph, Clemson running back Travis Etienne and Louisville receiver Tutu Atwell.

According to PFF, Farley was targeted 50 times last season and quarterbacks finished the season with a quarterback rating of 29.2 when throwing in his direction. The site noted that quarterbacks receive a 39.6 quarterback rating for spiking the ball.

Tech still has talent at cornerback, but Farley’s departure leaves new defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton’s defense with little depth. The Hokies will likely open fall camp with six scholarship cornerbacks on the roster, including one true freshman.

The good news is that one of those cornerbacks is returning starter Jermaine Waller, who was also named to the Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list. Waller was honorable mention All-ACC in last season with 13 passes defended and three interceptions.

Backup defensive backs Armani Chatman and Brion Murray will likely compete for Farley’s starting spot. Chatman and Murray both got reps at defensive back last year and started together in the Belk Bowl.

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

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