Monday Mail: Frank Beamer’s Shadow, Deablo’s Impact, Hunter’s Redshirt and More

Monday Mail has returned… on a Tuesday?

I apologize for the delay folks. It’s been a rough few weeks for me personally, and things are getting to be a bit much. I needed to take a day to get myself together, and I’m sorry those needed moments pushed back Monday Mail.

But, here we are. Let’s do this.

In case you were living underneath a rock all of last week, Virginia Tech spent the lead up to their showdown with Notre Dame honoring the hell out of Frank Beamer. Not only is Beamer headed to the College Football Hall of Fame, the athletic program unveiled a statue outside of Lane Stadium celebrating Beamer and his contribution to the university.

It’s great that Tech is doing this, and there’s no sane argument against the most important person in the history of Virginia Tech Athletics getting his own statue. But some may ask, how does it make Justin Fuente feel?

Imagine if you were following one of the greats. Does it become difficult to coach when all the fans want to talk about is how good the other guy was? How does one handle that?

Fuente has handled this situation in perfect fashion. He understands that not only does Beamer not want to interfere, he’s humble enough to let Fuente be the figurehead of the program. Just because Beamer is still around doesn’t mean he’s the guy anymore.

If all of this stuff is really bothering Fuente, he’s doing an amazing job of hiding it. No matter how good you are at faking, you don’t do this in a nationally-televised interview if you don’t believe what you say.

Fuente has willingly lifted Beamer onto the pedestal he belongs. Nobody asked him to do it. And I think it would be unfair to say Fuente is ready to be the Big Man on Campus. He’s about as humble as Beamer is, which is why he’s the correct fit at Virginia Tech. You think Lane Kiffin or Chip Kelly could have done that? Not a chance.

Great question. Let’s look at Virginia Tech’s defensive stats in games that Divine Deablo has played in, versus the games he hasn’t played in this season.

With Deablo

at Florida State: Three points, 233 passing yards, three interceptions

vs. William and Mary: 17 points, 232 passing yards, one passing touchdown

at Duke: 14 points, 256 passing yards, one interception, one passing touchdown

Average: 11.33 points, 240.33 passing yards

Without Deablo

at Old Dominion: 49 points, 494 passing yards, four passing touchdowns

vs. Notre Dame: 45 points, 271 passing yards, one interception, two passing touchdowns

Average: 47 points, 382.5 passing yards

Personally, I’m shocked that Deablo is making that big of a difference. He’s a redshirt sophomore with limited experience playing safety. He enrolled as a receiver and made the switch just two seasons ago and dealt with an injury for most of last year. When he’s been on the field, he’s looked solid but hasn’t been spectacular.

And yet, when he’s on the field this season, Virginia Tech’s defense is markedly better than it is when he’s off the field.

Most of it is likely due to communication. Deablo spent all spring and preseason camp as the starter at free safety, and he was the guy the other defensive backs leaned on to get them lined up. Even though Reggie Floyd has a bit more experience, his position doesn’t require the knowledge of the entire defense that Deablo’s position requires.

When Deablo is in the game, that communication is clearer. When he’s not, and Khalil Ladler or Tyree Rodgers are filling in, things don’t go as smoothly. Ladler is trying to learn a new position at whip and can’t be expected to play both at a high level right now. Rodgers is a former cornerback and is still learning the position as well.

Deablo is a rangy guy with good stature. He fits Tech’s defense and despite being a young player, he has the most experience at free safety on the team. Virginia Tech better put him in bubble wrap in between games, so he can see the field as often as possible.

Just about anything can be accomplished in 10 seasons. But in college football, it’s a bit harder than that. When you’re outside the top tier of schools, it’s difficult to find a way to break in.

Breaking in takes time. It takes money, it takes years of consistent recruiting, it takes good coaches sticking around and a bit of luck, too. I think it’s unfair to expect every coach to be capable of competing for a national championship in 10 seasons.

Besides, how does one define being a national contender? Is it being in the same tier as Alabama or Ohio State? Or is it reaching the next tier, with the likes of Wisconsin, Stanford or Auburn?

For this discussion’s sake, let’s say it’s reaching the latter tier. I think that’s a fair goal over 10 seasons, especially when you consider where Virginia Tech was when Justin Fuente took over. If this were Virginia or Boston College, it would be very different.

If that’s the goal, I don’t think Virginia Tech is far off. The Hokies have been ranked in the AP Top 25 consistently since Fuente took over, even if the Hokies aren’t ranked right now. Tech won the ACC Coastal Division just two seasons ago and right now, looks to be one of the top competitors for the divisional crown. If Virginia Tech recruits on their current level and perhaps a bit higher, the Hokies will consistently fight for the Coastal Division every season.

But if Virginia Tech is going to take the next step, the program needs three things — more money, better recruiting and a transcendent player.

Tech needs to continue to grow the athletic department’s budget so that they can afford to keep good coaches around and grow their recruiting and support staffs. The Hokies need to hit on more of their top targets on the recruiting trail, particularly in the state of Virginia. And lastly, Virginia Tech needs another Tyrod Taylor or Kevin Jones to lead the Hokies against teams who might be superior. Having all-around talent is nice, but having that one special player can make all the difference (see Vick, Michael).

Jason predicted the future here, as the Hokies announced this week that the team plans to redshirt Devon Hunter for the 2018 season.

Hunter took to Instagram to comment, writing, “Redshirting was a decision I felt was best for my future and family. It wasn’t the coaches decision it was mine…,”

Hunter finds himself in an odd situation. The 6-foot, 225-pound defensive back from Chesapeake is currently in his second season in the program and has yet to start on a non-special teams unit. Hunter has seen the field plenty this season, particularly against Old Dominion, and the results haven’t been positive. While Hunter is a great fit against the run at whip, he hasn’t held up in coverage thus far.

I think Hunter and the Virginia Tech coaches need to answer this question before anything else — what position is Hunter best suited for?

If the answer is linebacker, then Hunter needs to continue to add size and move to backer. If the answer is somewhere in the secondary, then Hunter needs to shed about 10-15 pounds and stay right where he is. There are no other options. Staying the course will leave Hunter position-less in Bud Foster’s defense.

Personally, I think Hunter needs to drop weight and either move to rover or stay at whip. I think adding weight would not only be detrimental to his skill set, but would also assure he wouldn’t see the field until his final season of eligibility. A 210-pound Devon Hunter is a lot more lethal and able in pass coverage than the current version. That’s what the Hokies need and that’s what will benefit Hunter the most.

3 thoughts on “Monday Mail: Frank Beamer’s Shadow, Deablo’s Impact, Hunter’s Redshirt and More”

  1. What is so amazing to me when you say that about Hunter is what James Anderson did with his height and size. Have we ever had a guy play that position, with that kind of size/speed combo.

    1. James Anderson was the prototypical player for the old whip linebacker position. But the position isn’t what it used to be. Playing whip now requires more athleticism and pass coverage ability, which is something Anderson wouldn’t have excelled at in today’s game.

      Hunter needs to adjust his body to keep up with slot receivers, or he needs to move to rover and sit behind Reggie Floyd.

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