The news out of Virginia Tech’s 23-3 loss to Clemson Saturday went from bad to worse Sunday evening when the team announced starting defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins will miss the rest of the season after tearing his right ACL in the second half against the Tigers.
Hopkins, a redshirt junior who started all five games alongside his younger brother Derrick, had eight tackles this year and emerged as a key cog clogging the middle of the line and stopping the run. The Highland Springs, Va., native will have surgery Friday here in Blacksburg.
This injury is of particular concern because the Hokies already lost redshirt senior defensive tackle Kwamaine Battle to an ACL tear back in August. The coaching staff will determine Hopkins’s replacement during practice this week entering Saturday’s game against Miami. True freshmen Corey Marshall and Luther Maddy have been the primary backups at defensive tackle throughout the season.
Virginia Tech also could turn to true freshman Kris Harley, a highly regarded recruit whom the team planned to redshirt this season. Redshirt junior Isaiah Hamlette (Brooke Point HS) may also be called upon to provide depth.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has worried about his unit’s depth all season, but so far it hasn’t hurt the Hokies. If there was one positive from Saturday’s loss, which dropped Virginia Tech from No. 13 to No. 21 in this week’s AP poll, it was the confirmation that the defense is much-improved from a year ago.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd went just 13 of 32 for 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception as the Tigers were held to a season-low 323 total yards.
Now, though, the Hokies likely will need to rely on some inexperienced pieces to make up for the loss of Hopkins. We’ll have more on the situation when the defensive coaches speak with the media on Tuesday afternoon.