Virginia Tech already had a steep challenge in facing two-time defending national champion Alabama to start its season. But the task got even tougher Thursday night when the Hokies revealed a cadre of potential starters were besieged by injuries this week.
Virginia Tech announced starting linebacker Ronny Vandyke, an All-Met from South County High, needs season-ending surgery on his right shoulder after dislocating it during a practice last Saturday. The career of redshirt senior running back Tony Gregory is effectively over after he re-tore his left ACL in practice this week. It’s the fourth ACL injury he has suffered at Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, redshirt junior offensive lineman Mark Shuman, who had been battling to be a starting offensive tackle, will need surgery after tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee in practice this week. Virginia Tech head trainer Mike Goforth said Shuman will be out four to six weeks.
The availability of sophomore J.C. Coleman, one of Virginia Tech’s top two tailbacks, also is in question after he suffered a high left ankle sprain and a right ankle sprain during practice Wednesday.
With Vandyke out for six to eight months, former O’Connell standout Josh Trimble, a walk-on, is No. 1 on the depth chart at whip linebacker. Vandyke had 21 tackles in a limited role last season, but the Hokies were counting on him to emerge as a playmaker.
The injury will likely force defensive coordinator Bud Foster to rely on his nickel package more, with freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller playing a hybrid linebacker-defensive back role. But with senior cornerback Antone Exum still out as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, Fuller was expected to help fill the void there as well.
Shuman’s injury means three of the team’s four main options at offensive tackle are freshmen, and redshirt junior Laurence Gibson would be a first-time starter if he got the nod against Alabama. Freshman Wyatt Teller, a highly touted recruit, was switched from defensive tackle to offensive tackle on Thursday as a result of Shuman’s injury.
With Coleman potentially out to start the season and Gregory’s career over, the bulk of the rushing load could fall on redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds. Redshirt freshman Joel Caleb, who was moved from wide receiver to running back just before training camp began, is suspended for the Alabama game after violating an undisclosed team rule.