Beating the top-ranked, two-time defending national champions was never going to be easy. But Virginia Tech’s chances of knocking off Alabama in their Chick-Fil-A Kickoff season opener may have gotten even slimmer.

The Hokies received a double blow during this first week of fall camp, with both star cornerback Antone Exum and redshirt freshman running back Joel Caleb ruled out of their Aug. 31 showdown with the Tide. Exum was told Monday that his surgically repaired knee will not be ready in time for the opener, while Caleb was suspended Tuesday for a violation of team rules.

Exum tore his right ACL and meniscus in January while playing pickup basketball, an injury that was originally set to cost him between somewhere between six and nine months — a timetable that left him racing the clock to be healthy by Week 1. But per the Roanoke Times, Dr. James Andrews told the second-team All-ACC corner he needed more time to rehabilitate the knee, pushing the target date for Exum’s return back to Sept. 26 and the Hokies’ road game at Georgia Tech.

“Upon exam, [Andrews] still feels like Antone is a little ways away, strength-wise and trusting the knee,” Virginia Tech head athletic trainer Mike Goforth told the Times. “They recommended increasing certain exercises and re-testing in [1½ to] two months.”

Caleb was one of Tech’s prized recruits in the class of 2012, a consensus four-star wide receiver and the 247Sports composite rankings No. 116 player in the nation. He redshirted last fall and was moved to running back in 2013, where he’s…

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