Virginia Tech ravaged by injuries as it readies to play Alabama

The injuries continue to mount for Virginia Tech, which opens its season against two-time defending national champion Alabama.

Projected starting linebacker Ronny Vandyke will miss the season with a shoulder injury that will require surgery, projected starting left offensive tackle Mark Shuman needs arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss up to six weeks and backup tailback Tony Gregory has a torn ACL, which likely ends his career. This is the third time Gregory has suffered a torn ACL. In addition, projected starting tailback J.C. Coleman has two sprained ankles, and coaches are hoping he can be ready for the Aug. 31 opener.

In January, star cornerback Antone Exum suffered a torn ACL while playing pickup basketball, and he's not expected back until the end of September at the earliest. Ironically, the Hokies are in the best shape at corner, as true freshman Kendall Fuller has lived up to his immense hype in camp and will start for Exum.

The situation isn't nearly as good at linebacker, offensive tackle and tailback.

Vandyke (6-feet-3, 218 pounds) was expected to team with Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards to give the Hokies a solid linebacking trio. Vandyke's backups are walk-ons Josh Trimble (6-0, 216) and Derek DiNardo (6-0, 216). Both saw extensive time on special teams last season, but they have a combined two plays from scrimmage on defense in their careers.

Shuman's injury means it's almost certain the Hokies will start one true freshman (Jonathan McLaughlin) at tackle against the Tide. Junior Laurence Gibson should be the other starting tackle. Both played well during spring ball, and each entered fall camp atop the depth chart (McLaughlin at left tackle and Gibson at right tackle), though Shuman had pushed past McLaughlin. The vast majority of Gibson's career playing time has come on special teams. The backup tackles now are true freshmen Parker Osterloh and Wyatt Teller, who was moved from the defensive line last week.

If Coleman, who led the Hokies in rushing last season, can't go at tailback, speedy redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds (6-1, 216) will get the nod against the Tide. The Hokies could be without three of their top four tailbacks for the game: Gregory is out for the season, Coleman is hurt and Joel Caleb has been suspended for the opener. Redshirt freshman Chris Mangus, who was moved from tailback to wide receiver early in camp, likely moves back to tailback now.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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