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ACC All Access: Virginia Tech's Michael Cole progressing from neck injury, but out for BC game

Virginia Tech strong safety Michael Cole is progressing in his recovery from a frightening neck sprain sustained last Thursday night in Tech’s 28-22 loss to Florida State, but he has been ruled out of Tech’s game Saturday at Boston College, according to Tech trainer Mike Goforth.

Cole, a 6-foot-1, 199-pound redshirt freshman from Roanoke, is continuing to have tests done to monitor his recovery. His status beyond this coming Saturday is yet to be determined.

“He’s improving every day,” said Goforth on Tuesday. “We’re still continuing to do some tests…We have declared him out for this week. He’s improved, like we said, daily, but he’s still got some stiffness and some tenderness and we’ll continue to treat that and just monitor it daily.”

With 12:23 remaining in the third quarter of the FSU game, Cole landed face down in the Lane Stadium grass after making a helmet-first tackle attempt on Seminoles running back Lonnie Pryor. Play was stopped for 10 minutes while medical personnel worked on Cole, who from a distance didn’t appear to be moving.

“I was scared, because the first thing I thought about was Eric LeGrand,” said Tech cornerback Antone Exum regarding the former defensive end from Rutgers who was paralyzed from the neck down after sustaining a spinal cord injury Oct. 16, 2010 in a game against Army. “I thought about that because (Cole) wasn’t moving. This season, I’ve never seen anybody lay down like that, or I’ve never seen Mike like that. Then, I saw the replay and how he led with his head. I thought, ‘Man, this could be like a really serious neck injury.’ So, I was just scared for him. I said a prayer for him and was just trying to hope for the best.”

An ambulance backed onto the playing field and Cole was loaded onto a backboard and stretcher for transport to LewisGale Montgomery Hospital in Blacksburg. Within minutes of Cole’s exit from the stadium, it was revealed Cole had regained feeling and movement and had suffered a neck sprain. He was discharged from the hospital in the hours after the game.

Dr. Mark Rogers, a physician who work with Tech’s football team, said Cole’s motion is better than it was Thursday night. The numbness Cole had at the time of the injury is resolved and his nerve function is good, which indicates no nerve injury.

Rogers said Tech’s trainers and doctor are following up with some of the strength issues, tightness and soreness Cole has felt in his neck after the injury. Cole does have a history of neck-related injuries.

“He’s had some stingers and stuff in the past and some other neck issues, but nothing like this before,” Rogers said.

“At this point, obviously, it was a pretty good hit the other night and a lot of scare and source of concern. He’s definitely doing better. Things are improving every day…His testing so far has been pretty good. His CT scan the other night looked good for no fracture, which is the most important thing. He’s going to be starting in some rehab, probably get some consults with some physicians that have seen him in the past regarding this as well, and just kind of go from there.”

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Goforth said it’s too early to tell if Cole will be available for the remainder of the regular season, or even what his playing status will be beyond the regular season. Yet, Goforth reiterated nothing is out of the ordinary regarding Cole’s recovery, and everything will continue to play out with regard to testing and consulting with doctors, Cole and his parents.

“Michael is a very motivated guy,” Goforth said. “He wanted to know what his practice status was (Monday). That’s his frame of mind right now. For him, Friday was business as usual. He got up, went to class, came and got his treatment and so on. He’s thinking in that direction, so it’s kind of a self-limiting thing. The better he feels, the more we can start doing with him. The biggest thing is to get him comfortable now, but I like where his mind is.”

Cole’s biggest role this season has been as the extra back coming into games in Tech’s nickel package. He’s entered games as a safety in the nickel, in which cases Detrick Bonner has moved from safety to cornerback. For the season, Cole has 43 tackles and two interceptions.

With Cole out, Tech was forced to go with true freshman safety Desmond Frye in the nickel. Prior to the FSU game, Frye had only played limited defensive snaps as a backup against Austin Peay, Bowling Green and Duke.  

“I think he’s going to be a really good player in the future,” said Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray of Frye, a 6-2, 181-pound native of Chester. “Right now, when you’ve got to learn during the game, you’re always afraid of any freshman going into that situation. I think he’s progressed, but you never know how a kid’s going to react until they get in a game situation and get into those bullets to earn that trust and that confidence. He’s gotten better. He’s got to be ready to play now.”

Frye, who has played in all 10 games this season and logged four tackles, was in the game when FSU quarterback EJ Manuel hit wide receiver Greg Dent on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 6:53 left in the third quarter to put FSU up 20-10. Manuel’s pass sailed over Frye to Dent, who was near the back of the end zone.

“(Frye) was in pretty good position,” Gray said. “The quarterback made a good throw. I would’ve like for (Frye) to have held his technique for about another half-second, maybe that makes a difference, but (FSU) executed on offense. As a freshman going into the game in that situation, it can be a tough predicament. He executed the way we wanted him to. They just made a play.”

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