The Hokies know they won’t have injured cornerback Antone Exum back until at least after the ACC opener against Georgia Tech. They’re hoping J.C. Coleman returns before that, but it might not be Saturday.
A Virginia Tech spokesman confirmed that Exum, who had offseason ACL and microfracture surgery, will meet with Dr. James Andrews after the Hokies play at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26.
Exum, who had surgery in early February, said a few weeks ago that he hoped he could ease his way back into action against Marshall and play in the ACC opener. But head coach Frank Beamer ruled the senior out earlier this week, and Exum’s checkup, which is a necessary step in him returning to the field, won’t take place until after the Thursday night game against Georgia Tech next week.
The Hokies’ Oct. 5 game against North Carolina could be realistic for his return. Exum has been in a blue, limited contact jersey lately but has increased what he’s done in practice.
In his place, freshmen cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson have played well, lessening the need for Exum to rush back.
“They’re always freshmen and they could have a freshman moment,” defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said. “I’ve been fortunate that these guys have played at the level that they’re playing and hopefully we can continue in that direction.”
Coleman, who has missed two of the first three games with an ankle injury and was in blue again Tuesday, said he’s still on the mend, adding that it might be better if he sat out against Marshall and focused on getting ready for Georgia Tech.
“That’s a four-day turnaround behind that [Marshall] game as well,” Coleman said. “I don’t want to tweak it again and be out for an ACC game. So I’m just taking it slow.”
Coleman said he couldn’t run on the ankle after tweaking it against Western Carolina on Sept. 14. He couldn’t do much of anything in practice last week, so the Hokies didn’t let him travel to ECU.
“It’s extremely tough for me,” Coleman said. “I’m a gamer, so I just want to be out there at all times. … I just want to be smarter about it with Georgia Tech coming up next week. It’ll probably benefit me more to just rest this one too and just play next week.”
Here are a few more notes and quotes from Tuesday night’s interviews:
– I’ll have more on this in a blog post tomorrow about the offensive line, but Jeff Grimes said Brent Benedict simply played better the last couple weeks and earned the starting spot over Laurence Gibson at right tackle.
Benedict, who had played guard almost exclusively since Grimes got there, began to work in at tackle in recent weeks. He was the sixth man on the offensive line, working at four positions — both guard and tackle spots.
“[It] makes what he did even more impressive to me,” Grimes said.
– One more o-line note: Grimes came away just as impressed as the other coaches with how converted defensive lineman Alston Smith has taken to the offensive line.
“Probably more so, because I see him every play,” Grimes said.
Grimes thinks the redshirt freshman’s mentality fits better on the offensive line that on defense.
“I think he’s got a natural sort of aggression,” Grimes said. “He wants to seek contact and he plays quick and plays fast. He’s very, very intelligent. Learns things very quickly. Has the ability to step and do some things naturally that I think suit his skill set better on this side of the ball. … But yeah, definitely impressed and excited about his future.”
Grimes said his focus was getting Smith up to speed at guard as quickly as possible. Can he figure into the mix this year?
“Absolutely,” Grimes said.
– The ground game struggled against ECU and running backs coach Shane Beamer said it boiled down to three reasons:
1. ECU is better than people give it credit for. “Their nose guard [Terry Williams] is as good, I think, as anybody we’ll see this year,” Grimes said. Williams had five assisted tackles, including a tackle for a loss and half a sack. He affected many more plays.
2. The running backs could have been better. “I still feel like we left some yards out there,” Shane said. “We’ve got to continue to be more disciplined with where our eyes are, what we’re reading.”
3. The coaches could have been better. “We felt like going into as a staff that we’d be able to get in two backs and run the ball a little bit more consistently than we did, with a fullback in there,” Shane said. “We were struggling to run the ball, probably should have gotten into some more one-back runs as the game went along.”
– This anecdote is my lede for Wednesday’s story about the passing game, but after facing stacked fronts all afternoon, quarterback Logan Thomas came to the sideline after the first drive of the second half Saturday and had a brief chat on the phone with Scot Loeffler. Thomas’ statement after that was simple: “Throw it.”
Shane approximated his phrasing to this: “Forget about it, we’re just going to throw the ball.”
“That’s the G-rated version of what it was,” Shane said.
– Receiver Demitri Knowles was a yard shy of his first ever 100-yard game last Saturday, but he talked Tuesday about the one play he didn’t make — going up for a deep ball from Thomas that got picked off.
“I felt like I had it and then he just put a hand there,” Knowles said. “Of course he intercepted it. … I mean, right now it’s just kind of a trust thing and I feel I basically have to build his trust and make him want to throw me the ball, basically. So it’s going to happen again and I feel I’m going to have to make the play.
“It’s a mental thing. You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to make it. I’ve got to make it happen basically.”
– Defensive end James Gayle had his left shoulder wrapped but still practiced as usual Tuesday after he had it pop out Saturday against the Pirates.
“It feels all right. It’s a little sore, but it’s all good,” he said, noting that he’ll be fine for Marshall. “I fell on my shoulder last year and I thought that was worse.”
– I’m writing a story for Thursday’s paper about how well the defensive line has played so far. D-line coach Charley Wiles has tried to stay even-keeled despite the Hokies’ success up front early on.
“Everybody’s blowing a lot of smoke up our butt right now,” he said, in a way only Wiles can.
Gayle thought he played pretty well against Western Carolina, but Wiles challenged him before East Carolina.
“Before practice started, he said, it’s time you started to make some plays,” Gayle said, somewhat surprised. “So I was like, OK.”
Gayle had two sacks and finished the Pirates off with a safety in the fourth quarter, earning ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors. What’d Wiles say to him before this week?
“You can’t just do it one week and think you’re great,” Gayle said.
– This is a former Hokie update, but receiver Danny Coale was waived from the Cowboys’ practice squad Tuesday after they signed another player. The former fifth round pick has been set back by injuries ever since getting to the NFL.