It's a huge blow to a young team that was ranked No. 7 in the preseason USA Today coaches' poll and was expected to contend for the national title for the first time in a decade.
"Darren Evans suffered a left knee ACL tear this afternoon," head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said in a prepared statement. "He was evaluated by Dr. Marc Siegel and Dr. Gunnar Brolinson and received an MRI at Montgomery Regional Hospital that showed the ACL tear. He will be re-evaluated later this week to see when the ACL reconstruction surgery will take place. Our hope is to be able to repair the knee prior to classes starting so that he can get started on his rehab and continue his course work.
"Obviously we are all saddened by the results of his MRI, but we all know what type of young man Darren is and we have no doubt that he will come back stronger than ever."
Evans was part of a crowded Virginia Tech backfield, so there is experience behind him, but none of the other players is as accomplished as Evans, who was the MVP of the Orange Bowl and rushed for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. He originally sprained his knee in Friday's practice.
Evans' 11 touchdowns set school freshman records for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns, and he set a Tech single-game record for rushing with 253 yards against Maryland. He also established an ACC championship game rushing mark with 114 yards.
Highly touted redshirt freshman Ryan Williams is now in a position to follow a similar path Evans did last year, when Evans took over for injured starter Kenny Lewis Jr. Williams stole the spotlight in spring practices and was expected to see significant playing time this fall. Josh Oglesby, a redshirt sophomore who saw some playing time last year, is listed as second on the preseason depth chart behind Evans, with Williams third. Lewis is another option, but he's been struggling to recover from a torn Achilles.
Virginia Tech held a scrimmage at the end of practice Tuesday, and it foreshadowed what the Hokies' situation at running back will now look like with Williams and freshman David Wilson leading the way. Because the coaches used the scrimmage to look at the younger players, Oglesby did not play. Wilson, the true freshman from Danville, Va., who has impressed everyone in the program with his athleticism this summer, led with 46 yards on six carries, while Williams, a redshirt freshman, added 31 yards on five carries. Zac Evans, a walk-on, rushed seven times for 26 yards.
Heather Dinich covers the ACC for ESPN.com.