Ferguson, a 6-2, 228-pound redshirt freshman from Sterling, Va. injured his shoulder. Hunter, a six-foot, 220-pound redshirt junior from Chesapeake, Va., has a knee injury.
“Dean had been battling through numerous injuries throughout the entire season,” Fuente said. “Quite frankly, just an incredible example of perseverance. … Seemed like every week was a new body part for him, and this is just one bridge too far. He’ll have surgery here shortly.
“Devon has obviously been through a lot and I believe it was on a special teams play that he hurt his knee. He’ll have surgery that will end his season.”
Ferguson has been with the Hokies since 2019 and played in Tech’s first five games of the 2021 season. He had five total tackles, including half a tackle for loss. He was Virginia Tech’s backup mike linebacker behind Dax Hollifield.
Without Ferguson, the Hokies’ linebacker two-deep drops to three players: Alan Tisdale (backer), Dax Hollifield (mike) and Keshon Artis, who can play both positions. Against Pitt on Saturday, Artis started at mike in place of Hollifield, who missed the first half due to targeting penalty against Notre Dame.
Hunter, who had off the field issues that forced him to miss last season, played in five of Tech’s six games this season, registering seven tackles. Hunter was Tech’s backup boundary safety behind redshirt sophomore Nasir Peoples.
In other injury news, Fuente did not have an update on cornerback Jermaine Waller.
Injured in the first half against the Panthers, Waller was on the sideline in a walking boot in the second half. Fuente didn’t think the injury was long-term in his postgame press conference, and he reiterated that on Monday.
“Jermaine will be out there if he can,” Fuente said. “I don’t think this is a long-term issue, I just don’t know how short-term it’ll be.”
Other Virginia Tech Football Press Conference Notes
Syracuse’s Defense “Poses A Lot Of Problems”
Tony White is the Orange’s defensive coordinator, and so far this season, he’s been a darn good one. Here’s the first line of his bio from Syracuse’s website:
“A disciple of defensive guru Rocky Long and the two-time Scout.com Mountain West Recruiter of the Year, Tony White was hired as Syracuse’s defensive coordinator in February 2020. He joined the Orange after serving as the cornerbacks coach and defensive passing game coordinator at Arizona State from 2018-19.”
Though the Orange are 3-4 (0-3 ACC) through their first seven games, their defense has been outstanding. Second in the ACC in total defense, Syracuse is allowing just 308 yards per game. Only NC State is allowing less.
Syracuse ranks fourth in rush defense and first in pass defense in the conference. White & Co. allowed just 354 yards to Clemson last week. Brad Cornelsen’s offense has a huge challenge ahead on Saturday.
“It can cause you a lot of problems,” Fuente said. “A lot of movement, some different looks. They kind of base it in a shell and can rotate and move it at the snap. … But it doesn’t work if they don’t have players, and they certainly have those as well.”
Syracuse has multiple weapons defensively, including linebacker Mikel Jones and defensive lineman Cody Roscoe. Jones is third in the ACC in tackles (65), while Roscoe leads the conference in tackles for loss (10.5).
Orange Running Back Sean Tucker Is Explosive
Syracuse is dead last in the ACC in passing offense. Garrett Shrader, the Orange quarterback, isn’t much of a passer – he’s completed 54% of his passes for 800 yards and five touchdowns this season.
What Syracuse can do, however, is run the football. First in the ACC in rushing with 1,622 total yards this season, the Orange are averaging 231.7 yards per game on the ground.
Running back Sean Tucker is one of the main driving forces behind that attack. The ACC’s leading rusher, Tucker is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 135 yards per game. He has nine touchdowns and 950 yards to his name already this season.
“He hits the hole hard,” Fuente said. “He appears to me, on film, to have a great lower body. He’s hard to tackle. He kind of has that slashing, low pad level, punch a hole in the line of scrimmage style. He’s been hard for everyone to tackle.
“He has great acceleration. When he sees a crease, there’s no doubt in his mind: when he hits it, he hits it.”
Shrader can run, too. He’s Syracuse’s second-leading rusher with 418 yards and an average of 60 yards per game. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry, more importantly.
Virginia Tech is ninth in the ACC in rushing defense this season, allowing an average of 156 yards per game on the ground. The Hokies are second, only behind Syracuse, in pass defense, but that won’t be much of the factor since the Orange don’t really sling the ball around.
It’s going to be a grind-it-out game in Lane Stadium on Saturday defensively for the Hokies.