Looking for a bounce back year after finishing 7-6 in 2012 and starting off the season against two-time defending national champion Alabama, the Virginia Tech football team wasn’t helped by a rash of injuries during fall practice.
The biggest piece the Hokies will miss going into the season is All-ACC second team cornerback Antone Exum. Exum tore his ACL and lateral meniscus in his right knee earlier in January and his chances of recovering in time for the start of the season were slim to begin with. Exum worked hard throughout the summer to get back in time for the season opener in Atlanta, but was unable to get back to full health.
Without Exum and with the transfer of sophomore corner Donaldven Manning, the Hokies will rely on two true freshmen, Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, to carry the starting load to begin the season. Fuller and Facyson were both highly rated recruits and have gotten good reviews in fall practice, but it remains to be seen whether they can come close to matching Exum’s productivity.
Earlier this month the Hokies lost another defensive starter, outside linebacker Ronny Vandyke. Vandyke suffered a right shoulder injury that required surgery, keeping him out for the entire 2013 season and making him possibly ready for spring practice in 2014.
Now, instead of having one of the better linebacker corps for Tech in recent memory, the Hokies are searching for viable options to replace Vandyke.
Redshirt sophomore Josh Trimble is listed as the new No. 1 on the depth chart, but it is unknown how much playing time he will get.
The running backs were hit hard as well this fall, with co-starter J.C. Coleman and backup Tony Gregory both suffering injuries.
Gregory re-tore his ACL, and it is serious enough for the Tech training staff to say his football career is effectively over.
While Gregory was unlikely to make much of an impact as a prototypical running back in 2013, he proposed a mismatch for defenses in open space.
In an odd situation, Coleman sprained both of his ankles this fall. He has a high left ankle sprain and a regular right ankle sprain. As the injury was announced the Hokies said they believed that he would be ready for the season opener against Alabama, however they cautioned it as an optimistic projection. Everything that has been reported so far cites Coleman as on track to fulfill that goal.
Finally, offensive lineman Mark Shuman, a contending starter at left tackle on a volatile offensive line, tore his meniscus in his left knee and surgery was required to repair it. Shuman is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks and is expected to return in full.
The injuries this fall have moved up the timetable for some of the Hokies’ talented freshmen, and they will be a vital part of Tech’s success in 2013.