Virginia Tech’s defense was already reeling when cornerback Kyle Fuller left Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh with a shoulder injury, having given up a touchdown on the afternoon’s opening drive. Looking back, though, losing Fuller may have been the turning point in what became the Hokies’ first setback of the year.
When the junior from Baltimore realized he couldn’t lift his right arm after making a tackle on a screen pass, it left Virginia Tech’s secondary scrambling. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster called it “a mess,” with safety Detrick Bonner playing three positions he hadn’t practiced and redshirt freshman Michael Cole receiving the first meaningful defensive snaps of his career.
Nobody felt worse than Fuller, who “tried to use what I could, my left shoulder” for a few plays after suffering a contusion in his right shoulder. So as the Panthers racked up 537 yards of offense, Fuller could only stand on the sideline watching big plays happen on the edge of the defense, where his superb open-field tackling skills would have been useful.
So you can imagine the coaches’ relief this week when Fuller participated in practice. Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said his top cornerback looked “very good” in Tuesday’s session, even though Fuller is still favoring the arm.
Fuller declared himself only 70 percent healthy Tuesday, but he expects to return to the lineup Saturday against Bowling Green.
“I can lift it more now. I just have to get some more strength in there,” said Fuller, who added he is open to a game day cortisone shot, if necessary. “I’m gonna try to go.”
The Hokies’ defense could have some additional reinforcements in its linebacking corps as well.
The original prognosis when Virginia Tech linebacker Tariq Edwards first underwent surgery to alleviate pain from a stress fracture in his shin in April called for him to be back on the field in time for the start of training camp. But it appears he is finally on the verge of returning to the lineup.
He has endured a couple setbacks since the first surgery, including another procedure on his knee, but Edwards is making progress. He has been a full participant in practice this week and Frank Beamer’s official Web site said he will dress for Saturday’s game.
During the open portion of Tuesday’s practice, it appeared Edwards still had a limp while running. But Foster has been encouraged.
“We did some one-on-one with the backs in pass coverage and it looked like he moved around pretty good,” Foster said. “I think his acceleration is good. I think it’s when he has to stop and has to change direction, I think that’s where he still has some limitations maybe. But I think that’s just gonna come more as he mentally trusts it. The doctors have kind of given him the green light going forward and we just got to keep pushing forward.”
When pressed as to whether Edwards would play this week, Foster could only say, “I don’t know.”
“I think he can mentally already,” he added. “He might be able to do it in spurts because I don’t know what kind of game shape he’s in.”
Edwards’s presence would be a boost for linebackers Jack Tyler and Bruce Taylor, who played 88 and 86 snaps, respectively, against Pittsburgh.
We’ll know more, including the official status of left guard David Wang (ankle), Thursday afternoon when Virginia Tech releases its official injury report for the Bowling Green game.