Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente addressed the media as the Hokies opened fall camp today. Included in his comments were updates on a few players, one of whom is already out for the fall and two others may also miss the fall 2020 season.
DE TyJuan Garbutt
TyJuan Garbutt is currently not with the Virginia Tech football team as he is currently dealing with some family matters. The current issue is also not related to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this point, Garbutt is still enrolled in classes at Virginia Tech, but Fuente mentioned that he is unsure about whether the redshirt junior defensive end would be playing for Virginia Tech for the currently-scheduled fall 2020 season.
Not having Garbutt would definitely be a significant loss for Virginia Tech especially as most projected him to start opposite Justus Reed after having 31 tackles including 3.5 for loss, 1 sack, and 8 QB hurries despite suffering an injury in last year's season opener against Boston College.
If Garbutt does not play this season, redshirt senior Emmanuel Belmar would likely slide back into a starting role. However, that would test Tech's depth at defensive end with the Hokies likely looking to Jaylen Griffin, Eli Adams, Zion DeBose, Alec Bryant, and others to step up behind Reed and Belmar.
DT Jaden Cunningham
Virginia Tech's defensive tackle depth has taken a hit as Fuente said that redshirt junior DT Jaden Cunningham suffered an Achilles injury and will miss the 2020 season. Cunningham will do his rehab from home with it currently being expected that he will return in the spring.
After redshirting last season coming from the JUCO ranks, Cunningham was seen as a potential candidate to try to push his way up the depth chart into a backup role at defensive tackle largely because of his size at 6'2'' and 306 pounds per VT.
Entering the fall, Cunningham was a third string DT though a good rehab could set him up to push his way up the depth chart in the spring especially with DaShawn Crawford and Jarrod Hewitt being in their final seasons in Blacksburg.
With Cunningham out, the path is clear for redshirt freshman Josh Fuga to be the fifth defensive tackle for VT though expect him to try to push sophomores Mario Kendricks and Norell Pollard for backup roles behind Crawford and Hewitt this season.
TE Wilfried Pene
Justin Fuente told reporters today that tight end Wilfried Pene has still not been able to leave France to come to Blacksburg due to COVID-19 restrictions. This is the continuation of what we saw when Pene said in a Tech team video for freshman arrivals earlier this summer that he was still in France.
Fuente did say that he is still "cautiously optimistic" that Pene will be able to arrive in Blacksburg this spring though this is clearly going to be an effort that stretches well beyond the athletic department to do so.
Pene is expected to redshirt anyway as the likely fourth tight end on the depth chart, but being able to help his development in person rather than from afar would almost certainly be better for him long term. Of course, Tech may have to wait till the spring to be able to do that.