The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching, something we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. That’s not until July 21, however. In the meantime, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a closer look at Virginia Tech.
This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on the Hokies’ roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people/ideas that will determine whether Virginia Tech’s 2013 season is a success or not. Next up is …
No. 7: Antone Exum‘s right knee
I misread my list yesterday, so I had to change my teaser. But once I corrected it, the timing worked out pretty well, since I wrote about Exum’s recovery from offseason surgery to repair the ACL, lateral and medial meniscus and a bone fracture in his right knee in today’s paper.
The gist of the story is it’s still too soon to know if Exum will be ready for the season opener against Alabama, a subject that will likely loom over all of August practice.
Exum will return at some point this year, but nobody knows when. And nobody knows just how effective he’ll be. Trainer Mike Goforth said in the story that guys in the past who have torn ACLs at Virginia Tech don’t feel quite right until a year after surgery. But there are also numerous success stories out there of guys coming back from that type of injury quickly.
Every case is unique. And every athlete responds differently, which is why it’s so hard to project recovery timetables.
But what if Exum can’t go in the opener? You’d see someone from the group of Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning, Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller start against Alabama. Although they have less experience, it wouldn’t shock me if the two true freshmen at the end of that list emerge in August. Certainly Fuller, who has instant impact written all over him. Regardless, the Hokies are better positioned to deal with an absent starter at corner this year than last.
Not having Exum is not ideal, since you’d obviously want your All-ACC cornerback in the lineup against the No. 1 team in the country. But if he’s not ready or trying to perform at less than 100 percent, he’s doing himself and the team a disservice. It’s not worth the risk.
Looking beyond that, Tech’s next three games are against Western Carolina (an FCS team), East Carolina and Marshall. I’ve seen it said that if Exum can’t play in the opener, it doesn’t make sense to bring him back until the Georgia Tech Thursday nighter in Atlanta on Sept. 26. I can see a case for that, although East Carolina and Marshall throw the ball around as much as any team in the country and having a star cornerback on the field would help.
The bottom line is that Exum won’t return until he is ready. That requires medical clearance and self-assurance that the knee he has to make cuts on won’t give out. And that takes time.
How long will that take? Nobody knows exactly. Such is medical science. But Virginia Tech’s defense won’t be able to reach the heights it wants to until he’s back on the field.
Coming Monday: He’s having a bobblehead giveaway at a minor league stadium soon.
- No. 25: Ryan Malleck, tight end
- No. 24: Defensive subs
- No. 23: Andrew Miller, center
- No. 22: BeamerBall
- No. 21: Ronny Vandyke, whip linebacker
- No. 20: D.J. Coles, wide receiver
- No. 19: Cody Journell kicker
- No. 18: Tariq Edwards, inside linebacker
- No. 17: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 16: A.J. Hughes, punter
- No. 15: J.R. Collins and Dadi Nicolas, defensive ends
- No. 14: Demitri Knowles and Josh Stanford, wide receivers
- No. 13: Kyle Fuller, cornerback
- No. 12: Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, defensive tackles
- No. 11: Young cornerbacks
- No. 10: Jack Tyler, inside linebacker
- No. 9: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 8: Laurence Gibson and Jonathan McLaughlin, offensive tackles