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Virgil Questionable for Nebraska Game

Stephan Virgil, who missed last Saturday’s game against Marshall with a knee injury, was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game between No. 13 Virginia Tech (1-1) and No. 19 Nebraska (2-0).

Virgil, who injured his left knee in a 34-24 loss to Alabama on Sept. 5, received an injection in the knee and returned to practice this week. He participated in contact drills Tuesday during the portion of practice that was open to reporters.

Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said Monday that Rashad Carmichael would start in Virgil’s place at boundary cornerback against the Cornhuskers. Gray said that if Virgil was healthy, Virgil would play in Carmichael’s spot at field cornerback “just because I don’t know how full speed he would be right now to start off with.”

Carmichael, a fourth-year junior, played boundary cornerback in the Hokies’ 52-10 win over Marshall and practiced at the position this week.

Eddie Whitley and Cris Hill will likely see time at field cornerback if Virgil does not play against Nebraska. Whitley, who never has started, played well against Marshall. Hill made his first career start against Marshall.

Meanwhile, tight end Greg Boone was listed as probable for the Nebraska game. Boone, who sprained his SC joint against Alabama, said in an interview Tuesday that he would play against the Cornhuskers. The sternoclavicular joint, or SC joint, is the connection of the sternum (breastbone) to the clavicle (collarbone).

Asked if the coaches told him if he would play against Nebraska, Boone said: “I’m going to play. I know I’m going to play.”

With Virgil’s status unknown, the Hokies have an element of instability in their secondary as they prepare to face a Nebraska offense that has moved the ball well through the air against two opponents from the Sun Belt Conference.

In a 49-3 win over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 5, Cornhuskers quarterback Zac Lee completed 15 of 22 passes for 213 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. In a 38-9 win over Arkansas State on Saturday, Lee threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns, completing 27 of 35 passes. Lee has spread the ball to a wealth of wide receives in both games.

Virgil, a senior, is the Hokies’ most experienced cornerback. The boundary cornerback position is big responsibility. It often lines up in man-on-man coverage against an opposing team’s best wide receiver.

Carmichael has made two starts at boundary cornerback, against Marshall and in place of the injured Macho Harris in last year’s 27-22 at East Carolina to open the season. He said he enjoyed the one-on-one battles that come with the position.

Carmichael played well against the Thundering Herd. He and the secondary limited Marshall’s offense to only 126 passing yards. His strength is in his man-on-man coverage, something he has proven to the coaches in preseason practices and in his play against Alabama wide receivers Julio Jones and Marquis Maze.

But Carmichael said this week that he was still learning the boundary cornerback position. Gray, the Hokies’ defensive backs coach, said Carmichael has not always shown the right instincts at the position. He said he challenged Carmichael that a more instinctual presence needs to come along if “he’s going to take his game to another level.”

By Mark Viera  |  September 17, 2009; 4:56 PM ET
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