- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va. — With a steady rain falling all afternoon in Blacksburg, the Virginia Tech Hokies moved their Tuesday practice inside Rector Field House. While the rest of the team finished up with a series of sprints, senior left tackle Brandon Frye and sophomore left guard Ryan Shuman, in matching green jerseys, carefully lowered themselves to the turf and started doing sit-ups.

At Virginia Tech, that shade of kelly green means no contact, just in case the gray boot on Frye’s right ankle and the black brace on Shuman’s left knee, accompanied by a rolling limp, didn’t make the point.

The Hokies’ young offensive line seemed to have finally begun to meld, posting outstanding performances over Southern Mississippi and Clemson. Then the unit just managed to hold off the onslaught from Miami for another important ACC win.

But now, Virginia Tech (7-2) is all but starting over.

“We had showed some improvement in there,” offensive line coach Curt Newsome said. “I think the thing we can be thankful for is when this occurred. I don’t think we could have handled this as well early in the season, but now with all the reps we’ll try to manage it.”

Shuman, who after undergoing surgery to repair a damaged lateral meniscus was relieved by fifth-year senior and two-time starter Brandon Gore, is not expected to return for the remaining three regular-season games. Frye is doubtful for this Saturday against Kent State after playing through a high ankle sprain at Miami last week, although a final decision has not been made.

“Right now we’re preparing as if [Frye] is not going to be able to play,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “We have to move on and get everyone prepared to play without him right now.”

If Frye takes advantage of the opportunity to heal with the 5-4 Golden Flashes coming to Lane Stadium — which appears likely — third-year sophomore Nick Marshman will get his second start of the season.

“Shuman’s one thing because we had Gore [who’s] experienced backing him up,” right tackle Duane Brown said. “But Frye, he goes down — Nick Marshman, he’s started one game this year, you know, he doesn’t have much experience. It’s upsetting to have those guys go down like that.”

Should further trouble at guard arise on game day, redshirt freshman Richard Graham is next on the list. And with Gore — who is also the backup at right tackle — plugging the gap at left guard, the backup at tackle is true freshman Brandon Holland. Although Stinespring and Newsome call it a look at the future rather than a move out of immediate necessity, even redshirt freshman tight end Ed Wang may see time at tackle tomorrow.

“We’re not sure,” Newsome said of Wang. “You would think he’d wear 85 to this game and not a tackle number, but we’ll see how this week progresses.”

With the line short-handed for at least this week, Frye has been doing his best to prepare Marshman for the responsibilities of his position. Although he sat out of Monday’s practice, the fifth-year senior said he shadowed the younger player at left tackle.

“I was out there standing right behind him saying, ‘Step flatter, bend your knees more, stay square,’ ” Frye said. “I mean, I probably sound like — and it’s something hard for me because I don’t want to sound like a nagging coach or his mom getting on his back — but I want him to be ready and I want him do well and I want him to succeed. I’m just trying to help out. If I’m not out there, I want to be out there through Nick. Somehow.”

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