Virginia might have starting safety Tony Franklin for Saturday's game against No. 7 Virginia Tech at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. Franklin, a defensive captain, was one of four players suspended from playing in last week's 27-17 victory over Georgia Tech, but the junior has returned to practice.
During his weekly news conference in Charlottesville yesterday, Virginia Coach Al Groh didn't say whether the other three suspended players -- nose tackle Kwakou Robinson, wide receiver Ottowa Anderson or defensive end Vince Redd -- would return to the team before Saturday's game. Franklin's return would be welcome news for the Cavaliers because starting safety Nate Lyles will miss the rest of the season with a neck injury, Groh said.
"It's not for sure, but I'd say it's probably moving in that direction," Groh said of Franklin's possible return. "Some of it's moving in that direction; some of it's not going as fast. There's no sense speculating. Who we talk about now might not be there Saturday; who's not in the mix right now might be there Saturday."
If Franklin returns, he will probably start against the Hokies, along with walk-on Byron Glaspy.
Lyles, who was released from University of Virginia Medical Center on Monday, won't be in the Cavaliers' secondary during their final two games -- they close the regular season at No. 3 Miami on Nov. 26. Lyles is walking and wearing a neck brace. The sophomore from Chicago injured his neck while trying to tackle running back P.J. Daniels.
Groh said doctors have diagnosed Lyles's injury, but he declined to reveal specifics in order to protect the player's privacy. Groh said "it was too far in advance" to say whether the safety would be able to participate in spring drills.
Senior D'Brickashaw Ferguson was named ACC offensive lineman of the week after grading at 85 percent blocking and slowing down Yellow Jackets defensive end Eric Henderson, one of the better pass rushers in the conference. Ferguson gets another challenge this week against Hokies defensive end Darryl Tapp, who is tied for third in the ACC with three forced fumbles.
"He's an equal opportunity disrupter," Groh said. "I think he's the most disruptive player we'll play this season, certainly the most dangerous."
Hamilton Stepping Up
Cornerback seemed like it might be a trouble spot for the Cavaliers this season, after Franklin moved to safety and reserve Phillip Brown was ruled academically ineligible before the season. But thanks to junior Marcus Hamilton (Centreville), the Cavaliers have held up reasonably well in the secondary. Last week, Hamilton held all-ACC wide receiver Calvin Johnson to four catches for 41 yards and had seven tackles, two pass break-ups and one interception.
"Marcus has really matured as a player," Groh said. "The way he went about preparing himself for that game last week was very impressive."