Virginia Tech running back Cedric Humes will probably miss Thursday night's game against Maryland in Byrd Stadium, but a handful of students in the school's Department of Materials Science and Engineering are designing a brace that could help him get back on the field.
Humes, the Hokies' leading rusher with 325 yards and five touchdowns, broke his right forearm in a 41-14 victory over Marshall on Oct. 8. Humes underwent surgery last week and doctors placed an eight-hole plate and six screws in his forearm.
"I think it's very doubtful that he'll play, unless something changes here," Hokies running backs coach Billy Hite said yesterday. "I think he wants to play, but I don't think he's ready yet."
Hokies senior Mike Imoh (Robinson) should be back after missing the Marshall game with a sprained ankle. If Humes doesn't play, Imoh and redshirt freshman Branden Ore, who ran for 146 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts against the Thundering Herd, will get the majority of carries against the Terrapins.
"To me, Mike Imoh is back to full speed and looks like the old Mike Imoh," Hite said. "It's the first time in a couple of weeks that he was able to walk down the hall to our meeting and he wasn't in pain."
Getting the old Cedric Humes back will be another priority for the Hokies if they want to stay in the national championship race. Mike Goforth, Tech's director of athletic training, said prosthetic designers in Blacksburg last week fitted Humes with a sleeve for his injured arm.
The brace is made of polypropylene, commonly used in lawn irrigation, and a half-pipe covers the surgically repaired portion of his arm, from below his elbow to above his wrist, or about six to eight inches.
The brace is normally used in prosthetics for lower limbs, so Goforth is seeking a sleeve that is more durable, flexible and lightweight.
Last week, Goforth contacted Brian Love of Tech's engineering school, and today Goforth will deliver a sample of materials for Love's students to use in designing a new brace for Humes. The students will try more modern materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber and Lexan. Goforth said this is the first time he has asked the engineering school for help.
"One of the problems with sports medicine is we've settled on materials like fiberglass" for casts and braces, Goforth said.
"We're working with the engineering school to try to design something better. He's giving it to the students as a homework assignment."
Humes said he is confident the students will master their assignment.
"I know they've got smart students over there," Humes said. "My grandmother graduated from the engineering school."
Humes ran in practice Thursday and yesterday, but was held out of contact drills. He practiced running with the football and catching passes and trying to tuck the football with the brace on his arm.
"I can catch the ball," Humes said. "I've just got to make sure I can grip it and tuck it."
Goforth said he also contacted trainers from the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, NFL teams with players who had suffered similar injuries. Former Tech receiver Antonio Freeman fractured his arm in 1996, underwent surgery and missed four games before returning for the Packers' last four.
"We're just trying to make it so Cedric can go out and finish his senior season," Goforth said. "We're just trying to give him a good chance."