Virginia Tech’s secondary suffered a major blow over the weekend.
The school confirmed Sunday night that All-ACC cornerback Antone Exum tore his right anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus, an injury expected to keep him out for 6-9 months. It happened during a pickup basketball game on campus.
Head trainer Mike Goforth will evaluate Exum to determine if he is ready for surgery, which could occur as early as Thursday. It will be done by Dr. Marc Siegel at LewisGale Montgomery.
Goforth was confident Exum would be able to return in the 6-9 month timeframe, based on similar surgeries. Exum already redshirted in 2009.
A second-team All-ACC pick from Deep Run, Exum opted to return for his senior season earlier this month instead of entering the NFL Draft. The rising senior moved from safety to cornerback last offseason and emerged as the team’s top pass defender, with 48 tackles, a team-high five interceptions and an ACC-best 16 pass breakups.
He capped off the season by earning Russell Athletic Bowl MVP honors after his interception of Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown that sent the game to overtime, where Tech won. It was the second most noteworthy thing he did that week.
The Hokies were banking on Exum to be one of the defense’s leaders in 2013. A six-month recovery timetable would put his return in late-July, prior to the start of August practice. If it’s in the 9-month range, he wouldn’t be back until late-September or early-October.
It’s a blow to a Virginia Tech secondary that was primed to have everyone return in the same positions for a second straight season.
Other than senior Kyle Fuller, the Hokies’ other cornerbacks are light in experience. True sophomores Donovan Riley and Donaldven Manning got the most playing time of the backups last season, but even that was minimal. Junior walk-on Carl Jackson and redshirt freshmen Davion Tookes and Der’Woun Greene could also see increased reps.
Virginia Tech will eventually have incoming freshman Kendall Fuller, a five-star recruit and Kyle’s younger brother, who has a chance to compete for playing time immediately. But he can’t sign until February and won’t be able to join the team until May at the earliest.
The Hokies’ two starting safeties — Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett — both have cornerback experience, having moved from there last offseason.
Exum seemed excited for his senior season, tweeting about his workouts in the last month. He attended Friday’s introductory press conference for the Hokies’ new coaches, adding some humor to the proceedings by taking the microphone to ask new receivers coach Aaron Moorehead if he joined the staff because of how good the Virginia Tech secondary was.
Moorehead played along, promising the cornerback that his group was going to out-work everybody on the team, adding that the Hokies’ secondary “better be ready to bring it day-in and day-out.”
UPDATE: Exum tweeted about the injury late Sunday night:
1. Thank you everyone for your thoughts & prayers. This has been the worst day of my life. But I will now DEFINITELY be the hardest working— Antone Exum Jr. (@IAmSwag1) January 28, 2013