There’s only one real position battle on the Hokies’ defense, but it’s a significant one at rover headlined by renowned true freshman Devon Hunter going against two young, former four-star recruits. This could be a battle that goes into the season especially given the pedigrees that all of these players had as recruits.
No matter what happens, two of these safeties may be starting together in 2018 or 2019 depending on what Terrell Edmunds does in regards to the NFL Draft, especially with Hunter having the skills to move to free safety after Edmunds leaves VT.
The 757 Star Freshman: Devon Hunter
After years of pursuit, Devon Hunter signed with Virginia Tech this past February and will compete for the starting rover job this fall with many fans having the expectation that Hunter will start against West Virginia. While Hunter is definitely quite talented, he faces a tough battle to win the starting rover job, but one that he can definitely win.
Hunter was definitely one of the top 100 recruits nationally and while he is a very good athlete, what makes him a serious threat to start immediately despite arriving this summer is that Hunter is simply a good football player already.
Now that may be the simplest analysis that may make you wonder why you even opened this article, but there’s a difference between a great athlete and a good football player. A great athlete can do just about everything athletically but a good football player has the intelligence, awareness, and technical skills to maximize that athleticism and be a more productive player than someone simply with great athleticism.
While Hunter has a huge ceiling, he also has a high floor as an intelligent football player who is quite effective in coverage with very good awareness along with doing well at watching the QB while also having a fairly high football IQ that Bud Foster will enjoy getting to work with. Hunter also has the size you want in a rover coming in to VT as he is listed as being 6’2” and 215 pounds by VT while also having good speed and reactions.
Hunter is going to be a really good player for VT and has the potential to be a Freshman All-American, but he will face the challenge of learning a playbook with only having about 5 weeks to work with the coaches along with adjusting to the collegiate level. If he would have been here this spring, it would be quite hard to not see Hunter winning the job but despite just arriving this summer, the 757 safety still has a great chance to earn a starting spot.
The Spring Leader: Reggie Floyd
Reggie Floyd has worked at rover for over a year now and was a big get a couple of years ago as a talented four-star athlete out of Stonewall Jackson in Northern Virginia where VT has built a pipeline that has also included Ryan Williams, Greg Stroman, Tim Settle, and Devante Smith. While Floyd may not be as well-known as those other guys, he has shown that he has the potential to a very good player for the Hokies.
Floyd has the advantage of having spent a full year in Bud Foster’s defense at rover while also earning time on special teams as a true freshman. Floyd also is more of a physical player that should be quite effective working in the box while his coverage skills aren’t as good but appear to be pretty good at this point.
The big advantage Floyd does have is the fact that he has experience in Bud Foster’s defense and has been working at rover for the past year, something that gives Floyd the advantage into the fall. Whether Floyd wins the starting job or not, you can expect Floyd to be on the field on defense and special teams this fall.
The Underdog: Khalil Ladler
Injuries led to Khalil Ladler redshirting last season before the former IMG CB was moved to rover this past spring. Now, Ladler is looking to break into the starting lineup but faces a tough task competing against Devon Hunter and Reggie Floyd for the starting job.
Ladler was right behind Floyd on the depth chart this spring, but has shown that he has the skills to push Floyd and Hunter this fall. Ladler has had the boost of a healthy spring to adjust to his new position while Bud Foster also has had success moving cornerbacks to other positions in the recent past including Terrell Edmunds to rover and Mook Reynolds to whip last season.
The issue for Ladler is the fact that he enters the fall behind Floyd with the talented Hunter now on campus while Ladler’s injury history will always be a concern. Ladler enters the fall as the underdog in the three-man battle, but the former four-star Georgian recruit can’t be ruled out especially now that he’s healthy and was able to participate this spring.
Prediction: Devon Hunter
This should be a fascinating battle between Devon Hunter and Reggie Floyd with the duo seeming very likely to end up splitting reps at least to start the fall, though Khalil Ladler can’t be ruled out either. While Floyd should definitely be a future starter and have a big role still this fall, Hunter is a special talent that could be a Freshman All-American and will have the job locked down by the end of September if he isn’t the starter already when the Hokies play WVU.
Bud Foster hasn’t been afraid to start a true freshman at rover as he did with Adonis Alexander (though depth at rover wasn’t nearly as good at that time), but with a veteran secondary, experience in Bud Foster’s defense may play an even smaller factor than normal especially with Hunter being as talented as he is.
Like some of the other position battles, you can expect both Hunter and Floyd to play a lot this fall with this duo having the talent to be the Hokies’ starting safety duo in 2018 if Terrell Edmunds leaves early or 2019 if Edmunds return for his senior season. In the meantime, the Hokies should be quite good at rover this season even if injuries hit whoever the starting rover is.
Tomorrow, we’ll finish up our position battle with a look at the most anticipated battle of the fall, the starting quarterback competition.