When asked about Virginia Tech’s offense Wednesday night, Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster described the unit as “a walking wounded group.” He knew something reporters did not.
On Thursday, the team confirmed that starting tight end Ryan Malleck will miss the entire season after suffering a labral tear in his left shoulder in practice last Tuesday.
The Hokies also listed running back J.C. Coleman and offensive lineman Mark Shuman as questionable, and safety Kyshoen Jarrett (hamstring) and wide receiver Charley Meyer as probable, for Saturday’s game. Linebacker Ronny Vandyke (shoulder) and running back Tony Gregory (knee) had already been ruled out for the season earlier this month.
Malleck’s absence will thrust backup tight ends Duan Perez-Means, Zack McCray and Darius Redman (H.D. Woodson) into the spotlight. None have caught a pass in a college game, and Perez-Means and McCray are converted defensive linemen.
As a sophomore last season, Malleck had just 17 catches for 174 yards. But new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler talked during the offseason of how much he liked to utilize tight ends in receiving roles. Malleck had yet to redshirt during his Virginia Tech career, so he will not lose a year of eligibility because of the injury.
Coleman, meantime, has improved steadily since spraining both of his ankles earlier this month.
Running backs coach Shane Beamer said before practice Tuesday he didn’t expect the sophomore to play against the Crimson Tide, but came away impressed with how much Coleman was able to do that day.
“I took a huge step forward,” said Coleman, who rushed for 492 yards last year.
If Coleman can play, he likely would split carries with redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds. Should Coleman be ruled out Saturday, redshirt freshman Chris Mangus would spell Edmunds since tailback Joel Caleb is suspended for the Alabama game for breaking an undisclosed team rule this offseason.