Just five days ago, Billy Hite was giddy over what he described as maybe the most deep and talented backfield in his 32 years at Virginia Tech.
Tuesday night, the Hokies' running backs coach had to hope that assessment was right. A red-eyed Hite couldn't muster much more than a whisper as he talked about losing his starter, Darren Evans, to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during practice earlier that afternoon.
"He was running a route, planted, and just went down," Hite said. "It's devastating. Obviously, he is (devastated) right now. His girlfriend... she's a basket case. It just doesn't make any sense. It's not fair."
Evans, who set a Tech freshman record last season with 1,265 yards, also injured his knee during last Friday's practice. He said he heard "a pop" and thought he'd torn his ACL that day.
But the Hokies' medical staff examined the knee, found no loose ligaments and determined that Evans simply sprained "the capsule around the knee, the soft tissue around the knee," according to trainer Mike Goforth.
Evans practiced sparingly for three days after the initial injury, only participating in light running and non-contact drills. He said after Monday's practice that he was "70 percent... but getting better every day."
Tuesday, he returned to full-speed, full-contact practice. Roughly an hour into it, his season was over.
"I think he (tore) it the other day," Hite said. "The problem with that is: He's so strong, there was nothing loose in his knee. A normal person, that leg would fall off; it would be that loose. He was out there running wind sprints full-speed. He's so strong, I'm sure the muscles masked what really happened the other day."
Now Tech must turn its attention to replacing Evans. And while there was reason for Hite's excitement last week - both redshirt freshman Ryan Williams and true freshman David Wilson were high school All-Americans - there is also reason for caution.
Neither of the young stars has had a college carry. Redshirt sophomore Josh Oglesby becomes the veteran of the backfield with 38 career carries for 88 yards. Kenny Lewis Jr., with 175 carries for 657 yards, would've had that distinction if not for a recent surgery - his fourth - on the Achilles he injured last season.
In an odd coincidence, on Monday, Oglesby had talked about the risk of injury to running backs.
"Darren's No. 1. He did his thing last season. But ain't no way you can make it through the season with just one running back. People are going to get hurt.... I'm going to get some playing time, one way or the other. I'm positive about that."
The prophesy is well on its way to fulfillment. Hite said Oglesby will be elevated to the No. 1 spot for now. Williams will move to No. 2 on the depth chart, although he was the star of Tech's spring game in April.
Hite also said Wilson, the rookie with 4.33 speed who has been sometimes dazzling so far in camp, will now definitely need to prepare to not redshirt.
"You can't ever have enough backs," Hite said. "Each one of them is going to have to take a step up, kick it up a notch. We've got three really good tailbacks still.
"Any time you lose a guy like Darren, sure it hurts your football team. But we're all going to pull together and bounce back."
Kyle Tucker, (757) 446-2374, email@example.com