The Virginia Tech Hokies cruised to a 42-3 rout against Furman with the Hokies getting on the scoreboard initially due to Andrew Motuapuaka returning an interception for a touchdown. In this game, Motuapuaka played fairly well until he suffered an injury that ended his game early against the Paladins.
Reports immediately after the game suggested that Motuapuaka was fine, but Hokie fans received some disappointing news today.
Andrew Motuapuaka has a sprained MCL and could be out up to 4 weeks
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) September 14, 2015
Losing Motuapuaka is disappointing, but the goal should be to make sure he is ready for the game against N.C. State. The good news is that Motuapuaka should be back by no later than the week after the game against the Wolfpack, but a return against N.C. State seems possible.
The mike linebacker spot is not necessarily an easy one to replace, and will not be replaced by just one person. The Hokies have a lot of unknowns that could replace Motuapuaka for the next few weeks in walk-on Sean Huelskamp and true freshman Carson Lydon being the two most likely replacements on paper.
Motuapuaka had very good instincts and had a good understanding of the system while also being a tough player with good size and athleticism. Lydon is the more athletic of the two contenders, but Huelskamp has been the backup throughout fall practice and has more experience in Bud Foster’s system.
However, Huelskamp showed his lack of size at only 207 pounds on some plays in the third and fourth quarters against Furman. Huelskamp probably needs to get up to 220 to 225 pounds, but that won’t happen in a matter of a few weeks let alone five days.
Lydon has a lot of potential after having a productive high school career and a good spring. However, it takes time to adjust to the mike linebacker spot and Lydon may not have the mastering of Bud Foster’s defense that the Hokies may be comfortable with.
A third under-the-radar contender for the spot could be Dahman McKinnon. McKinnon has been a backup at the mike linebacker spot before, and the Hokies may see him as the best fit in terms of having a good understanding of the defense, being a veteran presence, and having good athleticism.
However, what will be hardest to replace is the leadership that Motuapuaka brought in the middle of the field. Motuapuaka may not be as good of a leader as Chase Williams yet, but he had become the guy running the show throughout the offseason in the middle of the defense. Having that voice change in the middle to an inexperienced player will not be easy.
This will mean that the Hokies will need veterans Deon Clarke and Ronny Vandyke along with free safety Chuck Clark to help in that role. All three of these guys are capable of stepping up in that way with the potential that the Hokies could even move Vandyke to the mike linebacker spot for a few weeks with someone like McKinnon or Anthony Shegog taking Vandyke’s spot.
Andrew Motuapuaka will be a tough loss for the Hokies, but is one that Virginia Tech can survive with an effort from multiple people. However, it could be tough if Motuapuaka is out for the game against N.C. State.