But that dream has officially come to an end.
According to Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times, Exum visited Dr. James Andrews for his six-month checkup recently and didn't receive the news he'd hoped for. Hokies athletic trainer Mike Goforth offered the following statement:
Upon exam, [Dr. Andrews] still feels like Antone is a little ways away, strength-wise and trusting the knee. They recommended increasing certain exercises and re-testing in [1½ to] two months.
A typical ACL can be 6-8 months. What he had can sometimes be 8-12 months. And he doesn’t want to believe that. That’s typical Antone.
The news is a crushing blow to Virginia Tech and whatever fleeting hopes it had of beating Alabama. Even if the Hokies played their A-game and had all their horses running at full speed, they would have needed a few in-game breaks to upset the Tide.
Without the best player in their secondary, those chances are slim and bordering none.
Given Dr. Andrews' estimate of six to eight weeks, it appears Exum will have to miss more than just the Alabama game too. If Virginia Tech is lucky, he should be able to suit up for the ACC opener against Georgia Tech (Sept. 26), but even that is no sure thing.
Between the Alabama game and ACC play, the Hokies play a true road game at East Carolina—a team that (a) retains 18 starters from last year's eight-win squad, (b) has a returning 1,000-yard receiver in Justin Hardy and (c) is no stranger to upsetting Virginia Tech.
They also have to play Marshall, a team that only won five games last year but returns prolific QB Rakeem Cato, who threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2012.
All of which is to say that the absence of Antone Exum might be felt beyond Week 1. These are games against Conference USA opponents, but that doesn't mean they should be taken for granted. In fact, with guys like East Carolina's Hardy and Marshall's Tommy Shuler (110 rec, 1,136 yards in 2012) across the line, these are games in which Exum's services would have been paramount to the Hokies' success.
That all said, there is a small silver lining. Virginia Tech returns its entire secondary from 2012, so it might be able, at times, to mask Exum's loss in nonconference play. He wasn't being counted on to be the sole experienced player on his unit.
He was just being counted on to be the best.
[h/t College Football Talk]