Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
Virginia Tech will be without 10 players this week due to various injury and COVID related reasons including a pair of defensive ends in starter Emmanuel Belmar and talented freshman Robert Wooten.
Ten players unavailable for the #Hokies today, including:— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) October 31, 2020
Belmar's absence appears to be due to some sort of injury as he only played 3 snaps last week at Wake Forest. With Belmar out, Amare Barno seems very likely to take his place as the Hokies' starting defensive opposite Justus Reed.
Robert Wooten had also seen his role grow in recent weeks and was emerging as a fourth or fifth DE for Tech. Jaylen Griffin will likely be the top backup defensive end with Zion Debose and Eli Adams among the other possibilities beyond Griffin.
The biggest news here may be the fact that Jermaine Waller is not included on this list but according to reporters on site, Waller has not been taking reps in warm-ups with Brion Murray and Dorian Strong working as the first team cornerbacks.
Nadir Thompson did start against Duke but has continued to be the fourth or fifth cornerback for Tech while Walker Culver and T.J. Jackson are not in the regular offensive line rotation.
Defensive end takes a hit today for the Hokies, but the secondary is getting healthier with Waller back plus J.R. Walker. Waller's return may be especially valuable given the challenge that the Hokies will face trying to defend star Louisville WR Tutu Atwell. However, that still seems up in the air as kickoff approaches.
Louisville also has several players out today including at least three regular defensive starters and multiple backups with their defensive line taking a significant hit. How much of a difference that really makes remains to be seen especially given how Louisville's rush defense hasn't been that good anyway this season.
3 starters out for Louisville based on the TSL roster card for this game. Significant to say the least for a Louisville rush defense that hasn't been great anyway https://t.co/OSXo0e1Ifc— Tim Thomas (@TimThomasTLP) October 31, 2020
Both teams are dealing with outages in the defensive front in a matchup that is poised to see star running backs Khalil Herbert and Javian Hawkins likely have big days.
Jermaine Waller did travel with the team but he will not play in today's game per reporters on site.
#Hokies CB Jermaine Waller traveled with team but will not play today.— David Teel (@ByDavidTeel) October 31, 2020
With Waller being out, Tech appears set to go with Brion Murray and Dorian Strong as their starting cornerbacks for the third-straight week. Murray and Strong will be tested by Louisville star WR Tutu Atwell who has 450 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns on 32 receptions in 6 games this season.