Virginia Tech's season opener against defending BCS national champion Alabama was already going to be extremely difficult because the Hokies will be playing without star cornerback Antone Exum, who is still rehabbing his injured right knee. Frank Beamer's squad will have to rely on youngsters such as true freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller at cornerback against AJ McCarron and the 'Bama offense.
The Hokies' challenge against the Crimson Tide became even tougher, however, when the school announced on Thursday that projected starting outside linebacker Ronny Vandyke and third-leading returning rusher Tony Gregory will miss the entire season.
The sophomore Vandyke suffered a right shoulder injury that will require surgery, while Gregory tore his ACL for the fourth time, which likely ends his career. In addition, fellow running back J.C. Coleman will be out for at least two weeks with a high left ankle sprain and a regular sprain of his right ankle, and top right tackle Mark Shuman will miss 4-6 weeks with a torn lateral meniscus.
With Gregory and Coleman out, the Hokies are very thin in the backfield. Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds will get most of the reps leading up to the opener, as redshirt freshman Joel Caleb was suspended for the Alabama game due to a violation of team rules. He was moved from wide receiver to running back last week. The team could move redshirt freshman Chris Mangus back to running back after he moved to receiver last week. In addition, sophomore Maurice Taylor and walk-on Daniel Dyer should get more reps in the backfield.
As for the situation at outside linebacker, behind Vandyke are walk-ons Josh Trimble and Derek DiNarod.
Certainly the Hokies will be playing the defending national champs under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.