Two weeks of fall practice are now in the books, and the Hokies are just 15 days away from a showdown with No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta.
Can the Hokies pull off the upset?
If the first two weeks of fall practice are any indication, the Hokies may be in trouble. Several players expected to either start or contribute have been sidelined with injuries.
Senior quarterback Logan Thomas is using these practice sessions as a way to get familiar with a host of new receiving weapons. Fortunately for Thomas, he is going up against one of the better defensive units in the country each day in practice.
While it has been a tough week overall for the Hokies, here are some of the more newsworthy items involving the team over the past seven days.
Last week, the Hokies' depth chart at cornerback featured Kyle Fuller on one side, with true freshman Brandon Facyson and sophomore Donaldven Manning as co-starters on the other side. One week later, Facyson is now No. 2 on the depth chart behind fellow freshman Kendall Fuller, and Manning elected to transfer last weekend.
It is unclear exactly why Manning felt the need to leave Blacksburg. He gained significant muscle this offseason (which had been a problem last year), and he spoke of how excited he was about his sophomore season just two weeks ago. Facyson's emergence likely played a part in Manning's decision to leave. Keep in mind, Manning almost left school last season but decided to stick it out after speaking with coaches.
Where does this leave the Hokies now?
Their top three is set with the Fullers and Facyson. Sophomore Donovan Riley will see significant playing time as well. As good as Kendall Fuller and Facyson will likely be, remember that this is their first collegiate game and they are going up against the best team in college football.
Antone Exum can't return soon enough. In the meantime, the young kids must grow up quickly if the Hokies want to pull off the upset on August 31.
It was another week of musical chairs for the offensive line. However, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes struggled to keep several players on the field this week.
David Wang, Mark Shuman and Augie Conte all went down with injuries. Wang appears to be fine, while Shuman was diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus and will miss four to six weeks. Conte just sprained an ankle and should return next week. Wang and Shuman are both expected to be starters this season.
Could this come at a worse time for Grimes? He's two weeks away from playing Alabama and doesn't even know who his five best linemen are. It is looking increasingly likely that true freshman Jonathan McLaughlin will begin the year at left tackle. Grimes has to hope McLaughlin assumes the position and never looks back.
True freshman defensive tackle Wyatt Teller asked coaches if he could move to offensive tackle to help with the depth at the position. Teller, a four-star (subscription required) recruit, was expected to redshirt this season. He will work with Grimes over the next two weeks to determine if he can help the Hokies in 2013 at offensive tackle.
Coach Beamer appreciates Wyatt Teller's unselfish offer to move to OT. Truly a team player. Teller will work with Coach Grimes today.— Beamer Ball (@Beamer_Ball) August 15, 2013
Projected No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Coles hasn't been completely healthy for the first two weeks of practice. His presence is important for a group of receivers with very little experience.
At 6'4", 234 lbs. and with a history of knee problems, Coles received some criticism from coach Frank Beamer because of the excess weight, according to Mark Giannotto of The Washington Post: “I think the weight adds to the knee problem. I think if he could lose some weight, he’d be a little more nifty.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the senior wide receiver. Sophomore Demitri Knowles and freshman Joshua Stanford have been strong throughout practice thus far. Knowles has a tremendous amount of potential, and once he becomes a consistent route-runner, he will be a good player.
This group's overall lack of experience bodes well for a pair of junior tight ends. Ryan Malleck and Zack McCray expect to be much more involved in the offense in 2013 than in previous seasons.
The Hokies entered fall practice minus one of their better players in cornerback Antone Exum. The last two weeks haven't gotten much better for the Hokies.
In addition to the aforementioned injuries on the offensive line, top tailback J.C. Coleman is also temporarily sidelined. On Wednesday, Coleman sprained both ankles. The sprain in his left ankle is a dreaded high ankle sprain, which could take several weeks to heal. This is a tough blow for the Hokies, who are already struggling with running back depth.
On Thursday, head trainer Mike Goforth announced senior running back Tony Gregory tore his ACL for a second time and that his career in Blacksburg was effectively over. Gregory is one of the hardest-working players on the team, so this is another tough blow for the Hokies.
Sophomore whip linebacker Ronny Vandyke dislocated his shoulder in last weekend's scrimmage. Throughout the week, Vandyke felt he would be good enough to play soon, but the news came down Thursday that he would also need season-ending surgery. The recovery period for Vandyke is expected to be six to eight months. The Hokies were counting heavily on Vandyke to fill perhaps the most important position on their defense.
It was announced last weekend that six Hokies would be leaving the team. Donaldven Manning was the most notable defection. A four-star (subscription required) recruit out of Miami in 2012, Manning struggled both on and off the field as a true freshman. He would have played often in 2013.
Offensive lineman Adam Taraschke, defensive end Jarontay Jones and cornerback Davion Tookes all departed school. Like Manning, all three were 2012 signees and all three redshirted last season. None were expected to contribute significantly this season.
Greg Jones, a walk-on safety, and offensive lineman Jake Goins, both depart for medical reasons.
Several players have left the program since the spring. To hear Hokies fans tell it, the sky is falling.
Not so fast, folks.
Remember, the turnover on the offensive coaching staff has brought new life to the recruiting, and the attrition of players on the back end of the roster is a good thing for the Hokies. It frees up potential scholarships in an attempt to take the maximum amount of newcomers in 2014.
Don't panic, Hokies fans. There will be an infusion of good, young talent coming in the future. But in the meantime, it's almost time to face the 'Tide.