Duke Johnson (and his fellow offensive skill-position teammates) must be licking his chops right now for Thursday's game at Virginia Tech (4-3, 1-2 ACC), though he'd never admit it. He's pure business, and pure focus.
But if he keeps up with his football surroundings (and the Twitter world), he'd have realized by now that Virginia Tech middle linebacker and leading tackler Chase Williams "has been ruled out with a knee injury suffered at Pitt Last week,'' according to our friend and Roanoke Times Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter.
Chase Williams has 54 tackles this season (8.5 for loss) and 3.5 sacks, two pass breakups, 15 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
His replacement, redshirt freshman Andrew Motuapuaka, will get his first career start against the Hurricanes. Motuapuaka has six tackles in six games, one quarterback hurry and a recovered fumble.
Motuapuaka (pronounced mo-TOO-uh-poo-WAH-kuh) is listed as 6-0 and 231 pounds. He sustained a fractured right scapula (shoulder blade) in late spring practice that required surgery.
He was listed by Rivals.com as the No. 20 inside linebacker in the country (from Salem High in Virginia Beach) when he signed with the Hokies.
The Hokies also will be without All-ACC defensive tackle Luther Maddy, who has a knee injury -- though Maddy had only played in four games this season, his last game Sept. 20 against Georgia Tech. Maddy, a senior, graduated from Atlantic HIgh in Delray Beach.
Virginia Tech's defense is ranked 20th in the nation. Its rushing defense, 30th (allowing an average of 123.3 ground yards per game).
Johnson rushed for a season-high 162 yards in his last game against Cincinnati. HIs next 100-yard game will tie him for fourth all-time with former Hurricane James Jackson.
Johnson's freshman protégé Joseph Yearby is averaging 7.4 yards a carry, with 325 yards on 43 carries.
"Probably going to be the most explosive offense we've seen today, right now,'' well-respected VT defensive coordinator Bud Foster told VT reporters Monday after practice. "You've got two dynamic tailbacks in Johnson and Yearby. You've got [WR Phillip] Dorsett -- he's like a track champion.
"...They've got a young quarterback, but he's improving and growing each week and has got a live arm, throws a nice deep ball.''
*** On the other side of the ball...
UM's rushing-challenged defense will go up against a Virginia Tech offense that rushed for 26 yards last Thursday night in a loss at Pittsburgh and converted 2 of 14 third downs.
"This is the first time in a long time you kind of felt the similarities of what we we did last year,'' VT offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler told Newport News, Va., Daily Press beat writer Norm Wood (Aside: Thanks for warning me via Twitter to bring a warm coat) and the other Hokies reporters. "You didn't run it, you weren't good on third down and you stumbled in the red [zone].''
However, Virginia Tech running back Marshawn Williams, who missed last game with a sprained ankle, told VT reporters Monday that he expects to play against MIami.
The Hokies were without their top three running backs last Thursday, including Shai McKenzie (torn ACL) and Trey Edmunds (broken clavicle).
Williams has 362 rushing yards and three touchdowns in six games this season.
I'm sure the Hokies will be pumped to be back playing in front of their fans at Lane Stadium, a very loud and intimidating place to play (and projected to be in the low 40s temperature-wise during the game), and that they are determined not to repeat their regrettable performance on national television.
UM, on the other hand, still hasn't won a road game. And no matter how down the Hokies are this season, this game would constitute a big win for UM (also 4-3, 1-2), given the venue and tenuous situation with the Coastal Divison and how UM is still in the hunt for a division title.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN