NCAA Football ACC FootballVirginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech Will Need Antone Exum on the Field Against Alabama

Jason O. Watson- USA TODAY Sports

When the new calendar year set in this past January, Virginia Tech Hokies CB Antone Exum and the rest of his teammates immediately set their sights on the upcoming August 31 matchup in the Georgia Dome against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. They would have a chance right off the bat to redeem the poor 6-6 2012 performance by going toe-to-toe with the champs.

The rest of the Hokies squad still have their eyes locked on the August showdown in Atlanta, however, Exum is wondering whether he will be able to be on the field at all.

Back in January, the senior decided to partake in a–what seemed to be at the time–harmless game of pickup basketball. After going for a rebound on a missed layup, Exum heard a pop and was soon being diagnosed with a torn ACL, a torn meniscus, and a bone fracture in his knee. With a diagnosis such as that, not just the Alabama game, but the entire final season of one of the ACC‘s best corners in recent years was in serious jeopardy.

With that cloud of doubt hanging over him, Exum took a trip that many prominent athletes before him have taken. He went down to Alabama and sought the services of renowned athletic orthopedic surgeron Dr. James Andrews. Andrews immediately called the Exum family back and performed the surgery soon after.

Now, Exum is slowly on the road to recovery and the rehab time is said to be on a week-by-week basis at this point, which is more than promising news. Recently, the senior has been cleared to do some light jogging exercises on approved workout machinery.

What’s even more promising is that Exum feels confident in himself that a return for August 31, while still a bit unlikely, isn’t completely out of the question. And, for the Hokies, this would be the sheer definition of the best case scenario.

A game against the Crimson Tide already looks bleak enough as it is. Not many are giving them much of a shot to begin with. But, with Exum on the field and healthy, or at least as much as he can be for clearance to participate, the chances for the Hokies to pull off the upset grow just a bit.

Undoubtedly, should Exum be on the field, he will be matched right up against the Tide’s star wideout, Amari Cooper. The senior CB is one of the few people in the nation with the skills to possibly hinder the performance of the ‘Bama WR. The Hokies star also provides the ability to change the tempo of the game at a moments notice.

Nick Saban‘s offense is one that is built off control and consistency. A forced fumble here, an interception there, disguised blitzes by the ever-crafty Bud Foster are just a few of the things that can throw the powerful Alabama offense off of their rhythm. Exum is talented enough to factor himself into all of these scenarios.

Again, other than Exum holding out his own hope for a return, there isn’t a definitive timetable at the moment for when he could see the field again. With such a promising NFL future ahead, it could also be possible for the coaching staff to see it in his best interest not to play that night if the knee isn’t as close to 100% as they would like.

But, one certainty that exists is the fact that Exum on the field in the Georgia Dome that night gives Virginia Tech the best opportunity of showing the nation that they’re back to being able to compete with the top dogs in the nation.

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Jack is a College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS