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Hokies learn to play without Virgil

With Virginia Tech cornerback Stephan Virgil ineligible to play in the team’s meeting with Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Thursday, the Hokies’ are preparing their secondary to take the field without the senior.

The Hokies have turned to Cris Hill and Jayron Hosley as replacement options for Virgil.

“Stephan Virgil, he’s a big part of our defense, and losing him hurts a little bit,” free safety Kam Chancellor said. “But we have a good recruiting classes every year and guys behind him prepare to play in situations like that.”

Virginia Tech announced last week that Virgil, who has battled a left knee injury all season, was ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game. Although he had his knee scoped after the Hokies game at Virginia on Nov. 28, the procedure was minor and he would have been ready to play in the game.

Now either Hill or Hosley will assume Virgil’s role at field cornerback, which is responsible for roving large areas of the field and often in zone coverage. Both players saw more action in the team’s practice in Blacksburg, Va., following the operation on Virgil’s knee, which was previously undisclosed.

Hill, a third-year sophomore, made his first and only career start in a win over Marshall on Sept. 12. He played in place of Virgil, who missed two games this season after injuring his left knee in a season-opening loss to Alabama on Sept. 5.

While Hill was in the mix for the starting job at cornerback before the season, coaches said earlier this year that he had not performed consistently enough to earn playing time. Hill has played 44 defensive snaps this year.

Hosley, a freshman, has been primarily used on punt returns and has shined in that special-teams role. But Virginia Tech’s defensive coaches and players have been quick to point out his promise as a defensive player.

Hosley's weakness is his inexperience. He has played 49 defensive snaps this year, but has never made a collegiate start.

“Jayron possess talent I haven’t seen in a while, just pure instinct,” rover Davon Morgan said. “He has great feet. He’s a playmaker. Just put him out there and watch and you’ll see.”

With Virgil out for the bowl game, Virginia Tech fans won’t have to wait too long before they get a glimpse of the Hokies’ next cornerback.

By Mark Viera  |  December 28, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
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