The season-ending injuries continue to add up for Virginia Tech.
The school announced Thursday that junior whip outside linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is done for the year after suffering a Lisfranc (mid-foot) sprain in his left foot during last Saturday’s win over Miami.
The second-year starter will undergo surgery next week. His injury was confirmed Thursday with an MRI. He has already redshirted – and even if he hadn’t, too much of the season has passed for him to get a medical hardship waiver – so he will be a senior next season.
Junior Alonzo Tweedy (Hermitage High) will replace him and start for the first time in Saturday’s game at Wake Forest. Tweedy played 46 snaps against Miami after Gouveia-Winslow got hurt during a fake field goal at the end of Miami’s first possession (also the first possession of the game). Tweedy had eight tackles against Miami (the Hokies’ second-most) and also a sack.
Tweedy played 16 snaps in the first five games this season and 10 all of last year, when he dealt with a nagging groin injury. He is faster than Gouveia-Winslow, but lacks his experience. The backup whip is now redshirt freshman Nick Dew, who has not played a defensive snap yet at Tech.
Sophomore defensive end James Gayle, an impactful new starter, also won’t play at Wake because of sprained left ankle suffered on Miami’s first possession (a costly drive for the Hokies, as it turned out). On Tuesday, defensive line coach Charley Wiles was not optimistic about Gayle’s chances of playing. The Hokies will miss him. He has 6½ tackles for loss (tied for the team lead) and 3.5 sacks, second only to sophomore end J.R. Collins’ 5.5.
Gayle’s replacement will be sophomore Tyrel Wilson, who played 50 snaps against Miami after playing 81 in the first five games combined. Wilson is an undersized end (219 pounds). Wake’s offensive tackles are 305 and 320 pounds.
But the Hokies’ depleted defense – tackle Antoine Hopkins is also out for the year, because he hurt his knee the week before the Miami game – probably won’t have to worry about facing Wake tailback Josh Harris on Saturday. Harris is doubtful because of a hamstring injury suffered in last week’s win over Florida State.
Tech’s defense was down three starters – Gayle, Hopkins and Gouveia-Winslow – for almost all of the Miami game, and Hurricanes tailback Lamar Miller ran for 166 yards, with 112 coming on four carries during the fourth quarter. Tech’s run defense had looked much better this year than last year, when Harris ran for 241 yards in a 52-21 Tech win – the most rushing yards the Hokies have ever allowed to an opposing player.
In addition to Wilson making his first start, Gayle’s absence could also mean more playing time for redshirt freshmen Duan Perez-Means (Hermitage) and Zack McCray – who have played 34 and 86 snaps this season, respectively. But they played just four and five snaps, respectively, against Miami, coming into the game when Wilson had to head to the locker room to deal with the results of a stomach illness. Despite feeling under the weather, Wilson played well – four quarterback hurries – and played almost all of the game after Gayle left.
Gouveia-Winslow is the fourth Tech player (and second starter) to suffer a season-ending injury in 2011. In Week 5 against Clemson, Hopkins (Highland Springs) tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Dyrell Roberts, the No. 4 receiver, broke his left arm while returning a kickoff in Week 3 against Arkansas State. In the preseason, backup defensive tackle Kwamaine Battle tore his left ACL, which resulted in two true freshmen grabbing second-string spots at tackle.
In Week 2 at East Carolina, universal backup offensive guard David Wang broke his right foot – an injury expected to sideline him for eight to 10 weeks. That resulted in Michael Via moving from backup right tackle to backup right guard, where starter Jaymes Brooks sometimes needs a rest during games. (Brooks sprained his ankle against Miami, but returned, and is good to go for Wake.) No. 2 tight end Eric Martin is also out for Wake with a shoulder injury.
As Wiles tries to replace two starters on the defensive line, he hopes he can get more this week from true freshman tackle Luther Maddy, who was still slowed against Miami by a high ankle sprain suffered two weeks earlier at Marshall. Maddy played just seven snaps against the Hurricanes.
True freshman Corey Marshall – a Dinwiddie graduate who was a second-stringer, along with Maddy, before Hopkins’ injury – played 25 snaps against Miami (the most of any of Hopkins’ replacements), but struggled with alignment issues.
Wiles wants to rely on a combination of Marshall, Maddy and junior Isaiah Hamlette. He does not plan to play Courtney Prince, who got seven snaps against Miami. Prince is a former defensive tackle who was at offensive guard before moving back to defensive tackle following Hopkins’ injury. With Prince back on defense, redshirt freshman Matt Arkema (Midlothian) is now the No. 2 left guard. Arkema has played 12 snaps this season – all in blowout wins over Appalachian State and Marshall.
In addition to the above injuries, remember that Marcus Davis (the No. 3 receiver) missed all but six snaps against Clemson because he aggravated a sprained right foot suffered the previous week at Marshall – when No. 1 receiver Jarrett Boykin was out with a hamstring injury (the Hokies easily won by 20 points without him). Boykin returned against Clemson, when the Hokies lost by 20. They probably could have used Davis, who fully returned the next week against Miami.