BLACKSBURG – Antone Exum wasn’t on campus for the first day of Virginia Tech football practice Monday. But the senior cornerback still was the day’s biggest story.
That’s because he won’t be on the field for the Hokies’ season opener against Alabama either.
Tech trainer Mike Goforth said he was told by Dr. James Andrews that Exum would need another month and a half to two months of rehab on his surgically repaired right knee before he’ll be cleared to play.
“He went down there and they think he needs to be re-tested in another month and half to two months,” Goforth said Monday night during Tech’s first practice of the fall. “He still has a lot of work to do. The fact that he’s not ready is not anything indicative of his work ethic during this process. He’s been phenomenal. …
“I’m very sad for him but it doesn’t surprise. Objectively, I think it’s the right thing.”
Exum, the former Deep Run High School star who is coming of reconstructive surgery on his right knee, had an exam with Andrews in Florida on Monday. Andrews wants to re-evaluate Exum again in about two months.
That timeline would have Exum missing at least the team’s first five games, including the conference opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 26.
Exum, who is expected back in Blacksburg on Wednesday, had said he wanted to play in the Hokies’ season opener on Aug. 31 in Atlanta against Alabama, the two-time defending national champions.
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said he’s more concerned with getting Exum back in time for Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“We’re looking for him for the long haul,” Foster said Monday before practice. “The first game, yeah it’s a big game. But that’s not going to make or break our season. It’s the rest of the year that’s going to do that. …
“We’ve also got 11 other games after that. We’ve got a conference championship to play for hopefully. That’s my big focus for him.”
The 6-foot-1, 224-pound Exum tore the anterior-cruciate ligament and lateral and medial meniscus and suffered a broken bone in his right knee playing pickup basketball on campus in January. After surgery, Exum missed spring practice.
Since then, he’d worked hard to push himself to be back in time for the Alabama game.
Goforth said a standard ACL recovery usually takes between 6-8 months.
“What he had can sometimes be 8-12 months,” Goforth said. “He doesn’t want to believe that. That’s typical Antone. But that just leads to his motivation and toughness.”
Exum started all 13 games for the Hokies’ last season and was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.
He led Tech with five interceptions and was the MVP of the team’s Russell Athletic Bowl win over Rutgers.
This offseason, Exum has been named to the watch list for the Nagurski and the Thorpe Awards, which go to the nation’s top defender and the nation’s top defensive back.
At Atlantic Coast Conference media day last month, Tech coach Frank Beamer said it wouldn’t be easy for Exum to make it back for the Hokies’ season opener on Aug. 31.
Now, Andrews has apparently confirmed that.
NOTE: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Mark Irick was in a walking boot at Monday’s practice. Irick has a stress fracture in the tibia in his left leg, Goforth said, and will be re-evaluated in a month. Goforth said he’s hopeful the injury will heal without surgery.