NCF Nation: Donaldven Manning

When Virginia Tech opens the season against Alabama, the Hokies will be facing a Heisman contender in quarterback AJ McCarron and a preseason All-American in receiver Amari Cooper.

With true freshmen playing in the secondary.

Not exactly an ideal scenario, but one the Hokies have a few weeks left for which to prepare. First came news that starter Antone Exum is not fully recovered from a knee injury he sustained in January. Now, Donaldven Manning has decided to transfer, leaving the Hokies with true freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller to man the cornerback spot opposite Kyle Fuller.

To their credit, both Facyson and Fuller have drawn high praise from their coaches since they arrived on campus and would have most likely played in the opener, anyway. Facyson was a spring star after enrolling early; Kendall Fuller was the highest-rated player the Hokies signed in February.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster told reporters in Blacksburg, Va., during media day this weekend: "Really, I think we’ve got two outstanding prospects with Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller. I’ve really been pleased with Kendall’s just football IQ, his body positioning. Just a very instinctive, solid technique-wise, beside the fact he has tremendous ability."

But playing as a backup is completely different from relying on freshmen to take the majority of the snaps at that cornerback spot. Especially when you consider how solid Kyle Fuller is on the other side. Kyle Fuller -- Kendall's older brother -- has been starting since he was a true freshman, so you have to believe Alabama will go after the two young cornerbacks.

Foster says there are ways the Hokies can scheme their plans to help Kendall Fuller and Facyson out. But it could be a long night for the Hokies' youngsters.
Virginia Tech starting cornerback Antone Exum will not be available for the season opener against Alabama as he continues to rehab his injured right knee.

Athletic trainer Mike Goforth told reporters in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday night that Exum went for a follow-up appointment with Dr. James Andrews in Florida and was not given clearance to play. Andrews, known as one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country, performed Exum's knee surgery.

Exum will have another follow-up exam in one-and-a-half to two months, meaning he could miss all of September as well. The second-team All-ACC selection a year ago tore his ACL, lateral and medial meniscus, and fractured a bone in his knee during a pickup basketball game in January.

Both Exum and coach Frank Beamer had held out hope that Exum could be healthy enough to play against the Tide on Aug. 31 in Atlanta. But rehab from this injury generally takes eight-to-12 months.

"It's just one of those things that takes time," Beamer said. "It just needs to be right for him and for us."

With Exum out, Virginia Tech will have to rely on some young players against one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Sophomore Donaldven Manning and true freshman Brandon Facyson are listed as co-starters at cornerback on the preseason depth chart with Exum out.

Manning has played in eight games; Facyson enrolled early and turned heads during spring practice. Virginia Tech also plans on using true freshman Kendall Fuller at nickelback.
Virginia Tech freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson enrolled in school early hoping to get a jump on the competition.

After 15 spring practices, Facyson has made quite an impression and is a virtual lock to play in 2013 -- perhaps even start until Antone Exum gets healthy.

"Brandon Facyson was probably one of the pleasant surprises," defensive coordinator Bud Foster said in a phone interview Wednesday. "He might be our best corner. We had him behind Kyle Fuller in the spring but if we were to play tomorrow or this next week, we might be getting him ready to be our field corner."

[+] EnlargeBud Foster
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIVirginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has more depth at cornerback after freshman Brandon Facyson emerged this spring.
That speaks volumes for the type of player Facyson has the potential to be. Many times, freshmen who come in as early enrollees take time to develop and get adjusted to their new surroundings. But Facyson has been quite the quick study.

"He’s really got a good demeanor about him, a lot of poise about him, and he’s very coachable," Foster said. "This will be a big summer for him, to get bigger, faster and stronger. I knew what kind of prospect he was, but I was really pleased with how quickly he picked things up and learned our defense and his position.

"To me, he seems to be a very mature young man. He seems to be one that’s ahead of his time a little bit. That will contribute to his ability to play a little earlier. Coach [Torrian] Gray coached him hard a couple times to challenge him and he responded. Some young guys sometimes will stick their head back in a shell but he’s a guy who bulled his neck and kept going like a bulldog. That showed something about him, that he’s got a little fight in him. And you’ve got to have thick skin to play corner.

"I think Coach Gray was trying to challenge him and find that out. Is he ready for prime time or is he going to be a guy who takes a little time? If he gets beat or things don’t go his way, how is he going to respond? I think we saw him respond favorably."

Foster was very pleased with the development of his defensive backs this spring, an area where the Hokies need to improve their depth. Foster also singled out Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes as players who came on this spring. Highly heralded Kendall Fuller also arrives in the fall as well.

As for Exum, the starting cornerback seems to be ahead in his recovery from a major knee injury he sustained while playing pick-up basketball in January. Though Foster didn't have an update on the timetable, Exum told reporters in Blacksburg last week that he wants to be ready for the season opener against Alabama on Aug. 31.

"He feels very good, he’s planning on being here for the opening of camp," Foster said. "I don’t know when they’re going to give him his release, but if there’s anybody who can do it, he can do it. He’s got tremendous physical attributes as far as his strength and the muscles surrounding the joint. If the ligaments and all those things heal up, I know the muscles will be strong enough. We’ll just have to see. He’s a guy that’s very conscientious as far as his work ethic and doing the right things. If there’s anybody who can do it because he’s going to will himself, it would be Antone."

ACC's spring position battles

February, 21, 2013
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There are going to be position battles this spring at every school in the ACC, but some will be in the spotlight more than others. If you’re just tuning in to ACC football, here are some of the biggest competitions in the conference this spring:

OFFENSE

1. Florida State quarterback: This is arguably the most intriguing competition in the entire conference, as the Seminoles have to replace veteran EJ Manuel. Clint Trickett enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, but consider this job open. Sophomore Jacob Coker is the total package, but redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and could be the answer, too.

2. North Carolina running back: The Tar Heels have to find a way to replace leading rusher Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL draft. Not only will his loss be felt in the running game, but probably even moreso in the return game, as Bernard was one of the nation’s top punt returners. UNC returns A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, who combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

3. Syracuse quarterback: The Orange enter the ACC with a new coach and in need of a new quarterback. Record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib is gone, leaving behind a wide-open competition. Backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt are the top candidates. Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.

DEFENSE

1. Florida State defensive ends: The cream of the crop is gone, as Tank Carradine, Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins all have to be replaced. Enter Mario Edwards Jr., who has a leg-up on the competition because he played in 11 games as a true freshman, and started the final two games of the year in place of the injured Carradine. Don’t forget about Giorgio Newberry, though, and Chris Casher, who is now healthy after a knee injury. Casher will start spring ball on the two-deep depth chart. Dan Hicks, who was Jenkins’ backup two years ago, had a knee injury and missed all of last season. He had moved to tight end, but was in the rotation at defensive end earlier in his career and could come back.

2. NC State secondary: This group will have an entirely new look this spring, as three starters have to be replaced, including Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop and David Amerson, the school’s career interception leader. Cornerback Dontae Johnson returns, along with Juston Burris, who played in the nickel package. There are also several redshirts and younger players who will compete.

3. Virginia Tech cornerback: Virginia Tech’s defensive backfield lost its star last month when cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. Several young players will compete for his reps this spring, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller will join the team in the summer.
DUKE

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. Boone is up. Duke loses three-year starter Sean Renfree, who threw for 3,113 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Anthony Boone is the next man up, and has plenty of game experience. But coming in for spot duty is vastly different from taking over the starting quarterback job. He has to get a jump on becoming the leader of this offense in the spring.

2. Receiver spots open. The Blue Devils lose the most prolific receiver in ACC history in Conner Vernon, plus the versatile and athletic Desmond Scott. Jamison Crowder is back, but Duke is going to need to find two more starters and several more to step up and help with depth.

3. Handling success. This is the first time since 1994 that Duke goes into a spring with 15 bowl practices already under its belt and a taste of success. That should presumably give the Blue Devils an advantage. But it is much harder maintaining, as many coach will tell you. How does this new success impact the mind-set in spring practice?

GEORGIA TECH

Spring start: March 25

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:

1. Ted Roof takes over. What is the Georgia Tech defense going to look like with Ted Roof in charge? He has not really given out specifics about the type of scheme he wants to use as his base, so it will be interesting to see how he fits his personnel to what he likes to do best. The Jackets do return eight starters to a unit that improved in the second half of the season.

2. Vad Lee time. We saw glimpse of what Lee could do as he began to share quarterback duties with Tevin Washington last season. Now, the show is all his, so we get to see how he develops as a full-time starter.

3. So long, Orwin. The Jackets lose one of their most dynamic playmakers in Orwin Smith, who finished his career ranked among Georgia Tech’s all-time leaders in kickoff returns (76), kickoff return yards (1,624) and career all-purpose yards (4,278). Georgia Tech has to find somebody to replace that productivity.

MIAMI

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. D in Defense? The No. 1 spring priority has got to be improving a defense that was one of the worst in the nation in every NCAA statistical category (No. 112 rushing defense, No. 102 passing defense, No. 116 total defense, No. 82 scoring defense). If Miami is going to be a favorite to win the Coastal, it needs better play out of this group.

2. New OC. James Coley takes over as offensive coordinator, replacing Jedd Fisch. Coley served as offensive coordinator at Florida State before arriving at Miami, but did not call the plays. So he has much more responsibility here, and is charged with taking Stephen Morris from great to next-level great.

3. D-Line improvement. If Miami is going to be better on defense, it has to start up front, where the Hurricanes were extremely young and mostly ineffective for 2012. The Hurricanes had to deal with their share of injuries, but they also were not great at stopping the run or putting pressure on the passer -- with only 13 sacks all year. That is the lowest total since at least 2005, the first year NCAA stats began listing team sack totals.

NORTH CAROLINA

Spring start: March 6

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. Bye bye, Gio. Life begins without All-ACC running back Giovani Bernard, who left school early for the NFL draft. The cupboard is not completely bare, though, as A.J. Blue and Romar Morris both return. Blue and Morris combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

2. Replacing Williams, Reddick. North Carolina returns nine starters on defense. That is the good news. The bad news is the Tar Heels lose their two best players in linebacker Kevin Reddick and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, two first-team All-ACC selections. We'll see if Ethan Farmer at tackle and P.J. Clyburn at linebacker emerge to win the starting jobs.

3. Replacing Coop. The Tar Heels have a major hole to fill on their offensive line as they say goodbye to unanimous All-America guard Jonathan Cooper, a stalwart who made 47 career starts. Cooper was the unheralded leader of the offense, so filling his spot is a major priority this spring.

PITTSBURGH

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:

1. QB situation. Tino Sunseri is gone, leaving Arizona transfer Tom Savage, redshirt freshman Chad Voytik and junior Trey Anderson to compete for the starting job. Inconsistent quarterback play has been a major issue for the Panthers, so upgrading this position is an absolute must.

2. Adjusting to DC. Pitt is going into the season with its fourth new coordinator in as many years, as Dave Huxtable left for NC State after only one year on the job. Secondary coach Matt House was promoted to coordinator, so at least there will be some familiarity. But he has to get to work on improving this unit's consistency.

3. Offensive line improvements. Is this the year we finally see a vastly improved Pitt offensive line? The Panthers have to replace center Ryan Turnley and guard Chris Jacobson, two key positions to watch during spring practice.

VIRGINIA

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:

1. New coaches. How will the three most high-profile hires Mike London made mesh with the staff and returning players? How will the offense deal with a new scheme under Steve Fairchild? How will the defense deal with a new scheme under Jon Tenuta? How big will Tom O'Brien's role be with the offense? Inquiring minds want to know.

2. QB competition. Fairchild has already said he will open up the quarterback job to a "very spirited competition" this spring. The two front-runners figure to be Phillip Sims and David Watford, who both have game experience. But there will be no shortage of quarterbacks in Charlottesville this year, so there are no guarantees that either of them will win the job.

3. Replacing Greer. The Hoos have some big shoes to fill in the middle of their defense with the departure of linebacker Steve Greer, who ended his career with 376 tackles -- ranking No. 6 in school history. Kwontie Moore, one of nine true freshmen to play in 2012, backed up Greer last season. Will he win the starting job?

VIRGINIA TECH

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. Logan Thomas. All eyes will be on Thomas as he heads into his senior season, especially with new offensive coordinator in Scot Loeffler in charge. How will the two work together, and what will Loeffler do to get Thomas to cut down on his mistakes and capitalize on the immense potential he has?

2. Rushing attack. Item No. 2 on the agenda for Loeffler is to figure out a way to jump start the Virginia Tech rushing game, which struggled in 2012. The offensive line was inconsistent, and so were the running backs. The Hokies could never really settle on a starter or a clear rotation in the backfield, either. Somebody has to emerge as THE guy.

3. Filling in for Exum. Virginia Tech took a serious hit to its defensive backfield last month when emerging cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. The Hokies will look to several young players to try and fill his void, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Fans will have to wait on highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller, who joins in the summer.

VT-Miami injury reports

November, 1, 2012
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Here are your injury reports for tonight's game in Sun Life Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, #VTvsMIA)

MIAMI

Probable
Surgery/Out for the season:
VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season
Probable

True freshmen to watch in ACC

August, 23, 2012
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Now that we are closing in on the start of the season, we have a much better idea of how many true freshmen could make an impact in the ACC this season based on preseason practice time and early depth charts.

Maryland could end up playing the most, and having players who make the biggest impact. You have quarterback Perry Hills starting in place of the injured C.J. Brown. Highly touted athlete Stefon Diggs has had an outstanding preseason camp. Don't forget about running backs Albert Reid and Wes Brown, who also have looked really good.

Here are a few young players to keep an eye on at each school.

Boston College: Justin Simmons, DB. Defensive back is an area where Boston College needs help, especially after the loss of Al Louis-Jean, who's out six to eight weeks with a foot injury. Simmons already has made his presence felt. In a scrimmage last weekend, he had two interceptions. Also watch for defensive back Bryce Jones and linebacker Steven Daniels.

[+] EnlargeTravis Blanks
John Albright / Icon SMI The versatile Travis Blanks may line up at a number of positions on defense for the Tigers.
Clemson: Travis Blanks, DB. One of the top defensive backs in the country out of high school, Blanks enrolled early and had an impressive spring showing. He has followed that up with a great preseason, and will line up in a variety of positions -- nickelback, cornerback and some linebacker as well. On offense, watch for Germone Hopper, who has had some pretty explosive plays this fall.

Duke: Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell, RBs; Ross Martin, PK. Duncan and Powell have turned heads during the preseason, and coach David Cutcliffe said he would feel comfortable using both players in the opener against FIU. Martin is sure to get plenty of game experience as the starting kicker this year. Others to watch: receiver Max McCaffrey, tight end Erich Schneider and safety Dwayne Norman, who had an interception return for a touchdown in one scrimmage.

Florida State: Ronald Darby, CB. Do not be surprised if Darby ends up starting in the spot vacated by Greg Reid. Darby and Nick Waisome are competing for the starting job. Coaches like both players, but there is something special about Darby. Said coach Jimbo Fisher: Darby is "going to be a very, very good one." Also watch for defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and tight end Christo Kourtzidis.

Georgia Tech: Anthony Autry and Micheal Summers, WR. Georgia Tech only has four other scholarship wide receivers, so that increases the chances for Autry and Summers to play this season. Autry seems to have a slight edge over Summers. Others to watch: defensive back D.J. White.

Maryland: In addition to Hills, Diggs, Brown and Reid, several others could make an impact this year. Punter Brad Craddock is competing for the starting position with redshirt freshman Nathan Renfro; and cornerback Sean Davis could be starting on opening day because he has done well, and there are some injuries on defense.

Miami: Ereck Flowers, OL. Flowers is listed as a starter right now at right tackle, helped in part because of Seantrel Henderson's absence. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe has been extremely impressed. Others to watch: defensive back Tracy Howard and running back Duke Johnson. Howard is listed on the two-deep behind Ladarius Gunter but has drawn raves so far and so has Johnson, who should also return kickoffs this year. Deon Bush is in the mix for a starting safety spot.

North Carolina: Quinshad Davis, WR. Davis missed some early practice time because of a medical issue but has returned in the last week and has a big chance to make some noise. The Tar Heels are lacking depth at this position, and the way Larry Fedora likes to spread the ball around, he will take as many good receivers as he can.

NC State: Charlie Hegedus, WR. Receiver is a position of need for the Wolfpack, and Hegedus has seen more reps during fall camp with the injury to Bryan Underwood. One player NC State hopes you do not see this year is backup quarterback Manny Stocker, a true freshman behind veteran Mike Glennon.

Virginia: Maurice Canady, CB. Coaches are extremely high on Canady, who is in the mix to earn a starting spot in a secondary that has to be rebuilt this year. He has been working with the first team recently. Others to watch: Michael Moore at outside linebacker, and Eli Harold at defensive end.

Virginia Tech: J.C. Coleman, RB; Donaldven Manning, DB. Both players enrolled in January and are virtual locks to play this season. Coleman has separated himself from another true freshman, Trey Edmunds, despite a hand injury. He has had an outstanding fall camp. Manning has had to deal with a hamstring injury, but his early enrollment works in his favor.

Wake Forest: The Deacs rarely play true freshmen. But if there is one player who has a shot this year, it is defensive end Tylor Harris, who has stood out this fall for his pass-rushing ability -- something Wake Forest needs help improving this year.

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