Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Virginia Tech had their first Belk Bowl practice in Charlotte today with one notable player not participating, All-ACC CB Caleb Farley.
Here was VT head coach Justin Fuente's response on the playing status of All-ACC CB Caleb Farley for the Belk Bowl.— Anthony Romano (@ARomanoWDBJ) December 27, 2019
Farley sat out of the #Hokies' first practice today in Charlotte and you get the feeling Fuente's tone here likely says more than his words. pic.twitter.com/tonr2Wb0Bk
Farley missed the Hokies game at Virginia as well due to back spasms. As far as we know, this is a first-time issue for Farley with his previous injuries not being related at all to his back.
At this point, it appears unlikely that Farley will play in next Tuesday's Belk Bowl based on Fuente's comments, tone, and body language. Any final decision on his status may not happen formally until kickoff though.
However, Virginia Tech shouldn't wait that long to make a decision. Instead, the Hokies should hold Caleb Farley out of the Belk Bowl regardless of whether there is any realistic chance that he could play.
Caleb Farley previously told Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he plans on returning next season. Even if Farley were to change his mind after this bowl game and go to the NFL, the best decision that Virginia Tech can make is to keep him out of the Belk Bowl.
First, there's no doubt that Farley is quite valuable to Virginia Tech's defense in addition to the fact that he will be one of the best cornerbacks in America next season. Risking Farley's health in a mid-tier bowl game when Farley is a valuable piece on a team that likely will be preseason top 15-20 and the Coastal favorites seems completely unwise.
Second, back spasms are not the type of injury to mess around with or take a risky approach in terms of returning him to play. Tech likely already has a plan, but taking the conservative approach in terms of playing and practice participation to make sure he's 100% will be important, especially with the type of injury that can become recurring even if treated properly.
Third, even if Farley changes his mind and decides to go the NFL (which would be very surprising), Tech would be wise to hold him out. A recovered Farley going through the NFL Draft process likely is drafted during the first 2 days of the draft. If Farley were to pick up an injury and go to the NFL, it could prevent him from going till the third day given the risk.
In terms of P.R., it's obviously better for Virginia Tech to have Farley go higher in the draft with resting him mitigating the risk of him doing more damage that would hurt those hopes should he surprise everyone and change his mind.
There's no doubt that not having Farley will hurt Virginia Tech's defense, but against a Kentucky team that is almost an all-run offense with Lynn Bowden Jr, not having Farley isn't nearly as big of a loss. Bud Foster likely is planning on loading the box up with Jermaine Waller proving more than competent to be a #1 guy and Virginia Tech's cornerback cornerback depth improving as the season has gone along.
Additionally, not having Farley should give Tech the opportunity to give Armani Chatman more playing time that could be valuable to his development. Holding Farley out could also give Jovonn Quillen the chance to have a larger role in his final collegiate game.
There's no doubt that not having Caleb Farley will hurt Virginia Tech's Belk Bowl chances but in the grand scheme of things, Tech would be wiser to shut Farley down now rather than continue to consider taking an unnecessary risk.