Even though the Virginia Tech football team has started off the season strong, they've done so without some of their expected leaders at full speed.
In the offseason, standout cornerback and defensive leader Antone Exum tore his ACL but was initially hopeful for a speedy recovery.
Exum has recently begun practicing with the defense in a limited role.
“We’re just trying to get him along, get him in playing shape,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “It’s good to see him out there, but he just needs to get his timing back and play with a bend in his knees and see how his knee holds up in those situations.”
Although Exum set a goal to be ready to play for the game against Marshall, he will not be medically cleared until at least after the Hokies' game against Georgia Tech.
While the loss of Exum has been a big blow to the Hokies' defense, others have stepped up in his absence.
In the secondary, freshman Brandon Facyson has surprised Virginia Tech fans with his maturity on the field. Facyson has already recorded three interceptions this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, returning running back J.C. Coleman and freshman wide receiver Charley Meyer have been plagued by lingering injuries.
After spraining both of his ankles during the preseason, the speedy Coleman missed the game against Alabama but returned the next week against Western Carolina.
While leading an eventual scoring drive in the second half, Coleman reinjured his left ankle and did not return for the rest of the game.
Due to the injury, Coleman did not make the trip to Greenville last weekend to play East Carolina.
“It’s doing real well so far, right now I’m just taking it day by day, seeing what I can do,” Coleman said. “Today’s probably the best I’ve felt since going into the Western Carolina game, the same way I felt going into that game. I don’t want to do too much on it or tweak it or anything, so I’m just taking it day by day.”
Coleman was ultimately ruled out of the Marshall game to give his ankles another week to heal.
With freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus holding down the running back position, the Hokies should be fine without him. Barring another injury, he should be prepared for a return against ACC foe Georgia Tech.
Even though he is just a redshirt freshman, walk-on wide receiver Meyer was expected to be a large contributor this season. Meyer strained his hamstring prior to the season and has not fully recovered yet.
He was in on seven plays against Western Carolina but did not see the field against East Carolina due to his injury. With an improving, yet still inexperienced receiving corps, Meyer should see significant playing time as soon as he gets healthy.
Due to lingering injuries on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball, young players have seen more playing time than expected.
Once Exum, Coleman and Meyer are back to full health their expertise should elevate the team's play.
Although they will probably not be back for the game against Marshall, going into the ACC schedule these playmakers will add more depth to an already talented team.