Antone Exum’s injury forces Hokies to adjust

Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum tore his right ACL and lateral meniscus over the weekend.  He is expected to undergo surgery this week, and his recovery is projected to last “six to nine months.”

Exum, a second-team all-ACC player in 2012, tied for the league lead in interceptions with five.  Exum moved to cornerback after spending his first two seasons as a safety, starting mostly at free safety as a sophomore.

Exum announced earlier in January he would return to Virginia Tech for his senior season.  As difficult as it may be to find a silver lining in such a devastating injury, it could be said that Exum was fortunate to have stayed in Blacksburg for another season.  Assuming all goes as planned in the surgery and rehab process, Exum will have at least part of a season to display his ability post-surgery before the 2014 draft, rather than facing the pressure of getting drafted or signed this summer.

With that said, how does the injury affect the Hokies?  In the short-term, it will open a hole at cornerback for this spring.  The secondary otherwise returns intact, which means it will be relatively new faces playing for Exum’s spot.  Sophomores Donovan Riley and Donaldven Manning saw limited action as true freshmen in 2012, making them the leading candidates. Coincidentally, both players recorded four tackles and an interception each. Manning’s interception came against Austin Peay, while Riley’s was against Florida State.  This could also help decide who starts in Exum’s place should he be unable to go for the Hokies’ season opener against Alabama.

The optimistic side of that rather large estimated time of return for Exum, six months, would place him returning near the beginning of fall preseason camp.  However, a nine month absence would cost Exum more than half of the 2013 season.  Obviously, Virginia Tech will have a much better idea of the situation once it is given some time to develop.  Exum’s absence would be a large one to solve if the latter scenario plays out.

Off the field, you may remember Exum for his trip to Best Buy before this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl.  Each player received a $470 gift card to the store as part of their bowl gifts.  Exum used his card to purchase Christmas presents for a group of boys he met in the store a few evenings before he would tally a key interception in the Hokies’ 13-10 overtime win over Rutgers.

‘Hoos let the Ducks out: Virginia’s 2013 home slate just got a lot more intriguing.  The Cavaliers replaced a road game against Penn State with a home game against the Oregon Ducks as part of a home-and-home series which will send the ‘Hoos to Eugene in 2016.

This gives Virginia eight homes games in 2013, with non-conference home games against Brigham Young, Oregon, VMI, and Ball State.  It could be a big test for Virginia to open 2013 with BYU and the Ducks, but it could also reap benefits.  What they learn against those two good teams should be beneficial upon entering ACC play,  The Cavaliers will also host Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech.

Virginia was 4-8 last season, losing eight of ten after opening 2012 with victories against Richmond and Penn State.  The Cavaliers are not strangers to scheduling challenging contests out-of-conference. After all, the Penn State home-and-home was agreed upon in 2007, a much different time for the Nittany Lions.  Virginia also had a two-game series with Southern California in 2008 and 2010, and faced TCU in 2009 and 2012.

How will this matchup measure up against other non-conference games featuring ACC teams in 2013?  Boston College will travel to Los Angeles to face USC.  Clemson will face two SEC teams, hosting Georgia and traveling to Columbia to face South Carolina (of course).  Also in inter-conference state rivalries, Florida State’s game with Florida is in Gainesville this season, while Georgia Tech will host Georgia and Miami will host the Gators.  Maryland will play a “neutral-field” game with West Virginia in Baltimore.  North Carolina will also face the Gamecocks in South Carolina.  Pittsburgh will host one of this year’s national title contenders in Notre Dame.  And, of course, Virginia Tech will open the season in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff against Alabama.  So there are plenty of comparable games, but few (Notre Dame-Pittsburgh, Clemson-Georgia, and Georgia Tech-Georgia, Miami-Florida) that, like this Virginia-Oregon contest, will take place on ACC turf.  Of course, Notre Dame-Pittsburgh is kind of an ACC game, right?


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