Arguably the team's top corner in 2011, Xavier Rhodes is set for big things in 2012. The 6-2, 215 lb corner is entering his redshirt junior season having seen considerable playing time over the past two campaigns and ready to step up and become a leader in the secondary.
Asked about replacing Greg Reid, Rhodes barely seemed concerned, instead opting to turn his focus to the incoming freshmen, guys like Colin Blake, PJ Williams and of course, Ronald Darby (who has been earning rave reviews all week).
"We're just teaching the freshmen the technique and the schemes of the defense," said Rhodes as if the loss wasn't as big deal as the media is making it. "We like that they listen to us in order the get [better] and they really really have a passion for the game, we think we're going to be a very good secondary."
Rhodes' laid back demeanor is perfect for a big-time corner, he's never too high or too low. Even something like trying to step up to replace the boisterous Greg Reid as a team leader doesn't seem to cause him much consternation.
"It's not hard because I know what I have to do with this team, with this secondary to get us better, to get us motivated," said Rhodes. "Having Reid there, seeing what Reid [had] done really helped me out to be a more vocal leader."
As for the freshmen he's guiding, Rhodes thinks the glowing reviews they're receiving are merited.
"Yeah," said Rhodes shaking his head empathically," Yeah, like I said the passion they have for the game, not wanting to get beat, always wanting to get better, they want to be perfect at everything and impress always, I just love that that, the passion to be good and great is really impressive."
When Rhodes was entering his freshman season four years ago he was actually a wide receiver. A three-star prospect out of Miami Norland Senior, Rhodes took a redshirt year and added nearly 30 pounds, picking up technique and learning the ins and outs of the position along the way to becoming one of the team's best defensive backs.
Even despite the position change, Rhodes sees a few similarities between himself and this group of freshmen.
"At that age theyre' the same as me, always rushing things not always understanding the patience because you want to be good at that moment, you really want to play," said Rhodes. "That's how every freshman comes in, but you have to have patience to succeed."
As for Rhodes the patience it took to switch from receiver to corner has paid off. With his size and speed, Rhodes could have been drafted if he'd left as a redshirt sophomore last season. At 6-2 220, Rhodes has the kind of size NFL teams love and he's proven an instinctual player with the ball in the air. A big year in 2012 could boost his pro stock considerably. Still, the big-bodied corner insists he's not thinking about the NFL, not even in the back of his mind.
"I'm just living in the moment. Right now I'm just trying to make it through camp and after I make it through camp, playing on September 1st," said Rhodes. "I know if I play good, play great, I'll be there, I'll get drafted. So I'm just worried about playing good for the season, winning an ACC championship and a national championship."