Antone Exum went into Monday’s checkup of his right knee in Pensacola, Fla., with no expectations for what he was about to hear. But the prognosis — that he’ll need at least another month and a half to two months of recovery time — came as no shock.
“I tried to do everything in my power to get back for that [Alabama] game,” he said. “But I think it was just out of reach. …
“You can’t hang your head. You’ve just got to get back after it. At least now I have something to look forward to in two months.”
The senior, who who tore his ACL, lateral and medial meniscus and broke a bone in his right knee playing pickup basketball in January, knew his type of injury had a 9-12 month rehab schedule. He had surgery Feb. 5, putting a reasonable comeback in October at the earliest.
Although Virginia Tech’s ACC opener Sept. 26 at Georgia Tech seems like it would coincide with his next checkup, Exum isn’t setting any timetables right now.
“To be honest, I want to be back as soon as possible,” he said. “That game would be wonderful, but if I could come back sooner than that or am feeling better sooner than that, hopefully I can be back. Or, if it’s later — hopefully it won’t be — but that’s just what it has to be. I don’t want to put a date on it or anything. I’m just working hard to be back as soon as I possibly can.”
Injured players don’t typically get to travel with the team for road games, so it’s unclear if he’ll be allowed to go with the Hokies when they play Alabama in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug. 31. But he’d like to try to be there.
“Maybe they can make an exception or something,” Exum said. “I think could be an asset as far as leadership or coaching on the sideline, being a motivation for the guys.”
Now for some more notes and quotes from interviews before Wednesday’s practice …
– Exum and orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews have a joking back-and-forth relationship.
Still a little woozy from his initial surgery last February, Exum needled Andrews, who is Alabama’s team doctor, saying that he’d be back in time to help the Hokies beat the Crimson Tide. After Andrews told Exum this week that he needed more time to recover, he jokingly made it seem like he was doing so to keep the cornerback out of the season opener.
“I know he yelled [into the phone], ‘No, he won’t be back for the Alabama game!’ Sarcastically, like I might be back for Western Carolina but I’m going to hold him back for the opener,” Exum said. “It was all fun and games.”
– Sophomore cornerback Donaldven Manning made one of the biggest leaps in weight gain in the offseason, going from 160 pounds in the spring to 181 for training camp. How?
“Mom was stuffing me every time I went home,” he said. “They just kept stuffing me with a whole bunch of food, a lot of supplements.”
Manning, who was about 150 pounds when he first reported to Blacksburg in the winter of 2012, said he thought he needed to add extra size to “be able to compete with those SEC guys,” noting the Alabama opener.
“It doesn’t feel much different,” he said. “I’ve had time to work with it. But in the summer it was killing me. Just working with it in conditioning, it was very hard adding that extra 20 pounds. … I still feel as quick. I feel like I’ve got to keep getting faster.”
– True freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller seems to be embracing the expectations the coaching staff has put on him this August.
“You’d rather have coaches have high expectations rather than low expectations,” he said.
Tech has a nickel role in mind this year the five-star prospect, a role Fuller thinks fits his skills well. His older brother, Kyle, a senior cornerback, started getting him ready for this year as soon as Kendall’s high school season ended last year. I’ll have more on Kendall in Friday’s paper.
– And a little more now: Kendall grew a goatee this summer because they wouldn’t allow them where he went to high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, Md.
– With Kendall having a significant role and early enrollee Brandon Facyson competing with Manning for the starting spot vacated by Exum, there’s a chance Tech could have two true freshmen on the field on defense in the opener against two-time defending national champion Alabama. Will Facyson have any nerves?
“There’ll be nerves,” he said. “But once I make that first play that I know I’m going to make, the nerves will be gone.”
– Freshman defensive tackle Wyatt Teller was a big boy before he got to Tech, but he’s packed on even more pounds since arriving on campus (check out pictures here). He said he’s gone from 253 to 276 in the last month.
“Tech food is the best,” he said. “I can’t stop eating it. Lots of protein. Lots of weight room. I’m the same speed, same everything, just 23 pounds heavier.”
He didn’t know if he’d get bigger. It depends on if he can maintain the same speed. A defensive end in high school, Teller knew he ‘d probably move inside in college. It sounds like that might be where he sticks in college.
“I was a huge defensive end in high school. It just didn’t fit,” he said. “I’m not as fast as [James] Gayle, so not everybody can do that.”
Currently listed as a fourth-team defensive tackle, Teller doesn’t have any expectations regarding playing time this year.
“I feel like there are a bunch of great players in front of me,” he said. “Even the younger guys really know the plays. I mean, if I learn it and everything like that, I think I might have a chance to get a few plays in. If I don’t then, you know, maybe I’ll be better next year. Either way, I’m happy to be here. It’s awesome.”
– Junior Corey Marshall sounds excited about his move from defensive end to tackle, a one-year deal that was a mutual decision between him and the coaches. It made sense, since the Hokies have three senior defensive ends (Gayle, J.R. Collins and Tyrel Wilson) and Dadi Nicolas on the depth chart.
“Versatility is a big thing with me,” he said. “I like to have my cake and eat it too. If I’m playing both spots, great. But yeah, defensive end, I want to go out there [next year] and showcase what I can do.”
Marshall played defensive tackle as a true freshman when depth was dire, doing so about 15 pounds lighter than he is now at 260. He’s not worried about gaining a bunch of weight. He wants to be a play-maker at tackle.
“I’m feeling explosive,’ he said. “In the weight room, I’m one of the stronger guys, regardless of position. I feel like with my explosion and my get-off, it can cause problems in there and be a force.”
– More shuffling on the offensive line today. Frank Beamer‘s website said the first team consisted of Jonathan McLaughlin at left tackle, Brent Benedict at left guard and David Wang at center on Wednesday. Expect that lineup to be in flux for at least the first half of camp.