Throughout training camp one of the major questions that confronted Virginia Tech’s defensive coaches was the depth, or lack thereof, on the defensive line. Six games into the season, those worries have proven prophetic.
Coach Frank Beamer called the mounting injuries along Virginia Tech’s defensive line “a tremendous concern,” during his Monday teleconference. The team already lost defensive tackles Antoine Hopkins and Kwamaine Battle for the year because of anterior cruciate ligament injuries, but the Hokies could now be without starting defensive end James Gayle when they travel to Wake Forest this weekend for another pivotal conference game.
Gayle sprained his ankle during the first series of Saturday’s win over Miami and never returned. Beamer said he would not have an update on the status of Gayle or linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (foot) until the team releases its official injury report on Thursday. However, this reporter spotted Gouveia-Winslow limping around campus Monday while wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
To make matters worse, Beamer said freshman defensive tackle Luther Maddy, one of the players expected to help fill the void after Hopkins’s season-ending injury in the loss to Clemson, only saw seven snaps against the Hurricanes because the high-ankle sprain he suffered at Marshall two weeks ago hasn’t completely healed. Classmate Corey Marshall, who started with Hopkins sidelined, played 25 snaps and recorded two assisted tackles.
Even Gayle’s replacement, 219-pound redshirt sophomore Tyrel Wilson, wasn’t completely healthy. Beamer revealed that he played through a stomach virus.
As the game wore on Saturday, the Hokies simply couldn’t compete against Miami’s mammoth offensive line and it’s the biggest reason why the Hurricanes were able to gain 236 rushing yards against a Virginia Tech defense that entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation against the run.
On the Miami’s final touchdown drive, junior Courtney Prince was even playing some defensive tackle. That’s notable because up until last week, he was a backup offensive guard for the Hokies.
“Hopefully we can get well this week or at least somewhat well,” Beamer said. . . .
On the bright side, two Virginia Tech players earned recognition from the ACC for their performances this past weekend.
Quarterback Logan Thomas was named the conference’s offensive back of the week after completing 23 of his 25 passes for 310 yards and accounting for five total touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore became just the second player in school history to have more touchdown passes (three) than incompletions. Michael Vick did it twice during his memorable redshirt freshman campaign in 1999.
Right tackle Blake DeChristopher, meanwhile, was named the ACC’s offensive lineman of the week after the Hokies racked up 482 yards on offense. An all-ACC selection a year ago, DeChristopher graded out at 93 percent after the coaches watched the Miami film and had a team-high eight knockdowns during the game.