Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said on the Tech Talk Live radio show Monday night that he got a text from Exum’s mom, who said the senior cornerback had been cleared by Dr. James Andrews to return to action.
Exum, who got checked out in Pensacola, Fla., has been out since needing surgery to repair the ACL, lateral and medial meniscus and a bone fracture in his right knee. He suffered the injury playing pickup basketball in January and had surgery in early February, rehabbing ever since to get back on the field.
Gray said the Hokies’ coaches will sit down as a staff to decide how Exum will be worked back into the lineup. Exum has spent the last few weeks in a blue, limited jersey, shadowing receivers to get used to making cuts again and working in during scout-team periods.
Exum said last week that he was told that if he was 100 percent, he’d be the starter upon his return. Gray said Monday that Tech will have to figure things out depending on his readiness to get in the game.
“I think with his injury and what he’s coming off of, he has to be eased in naturally, so there will be some transition with that,” Gray said. “But we’ll kind of evaluate him during the week and see how it goes and we’ll determine it from there.”
In Exum’s absence, true freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson have stepped up their games. Fuller has teamed with his older brother Kyle to form a formidable starting cornerback duo, and Facyson is tied for the national lead in interceptions with four through five games, tying Virginia Tech’s freshman record.
Despite the logjam at corner, the coaches have no inclination to move Exum back to safety.
“When he’s full-go, he’s going to play cornerback,” Gray said.
Gray also said Kyle Fuller’s foray at whip linebacker against Georgia Tech was a one-time thing. Cornerback remains his primary position now that the Hokies are back in their base defense.
Exum earned second-team All-ACC recognition as a cornerback last season after spending his first two years at safety and rover. He had 48 tackles, a team-high five interceptions and an ACC-best 16 pass breakups. He finished the season by earning MVP honors of the Russell Athletic Bowl, with a key fourth quarter interception.
UPDATE: Exum tweeted this Monday night:
1. THE DAYCARE IS NOW OPEN! #COMEPLAY— Antone Exum Jr. (@IAmSwag1) October 1, 2013
UPDATE II: This doesn’t really say much more than everyone already knew, but here’s a statement by Virginia Tech head athletic trainer Mike Goforth from today:
“After eight months of right ACL reconstruction rehab, Antone Exum was cleared for full participation by Dr. James Andrews yesterday afternoon. He will return to practice this week without any restrictions and is expected to continue rehabilitation for the remainder of the season. His playing time for North Carolina and all future games will be determined by how well the right knee tolerates practices this week and how quickly he re-establishes pre-injury cardiovascular endurance and pre-injury skill levels.”