Justin Fuente announced at Monday’s press conference that Virginia Tech intends to redshirt defensive back Devon Hunter this season.
Fuente said whip LB Devon Hunter didn't play last weekend because they want to continue developing him. Said they plan to redshirt him. He's appeared in four games, under the threshold. #Hookies
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) October 8, 2018
Hunter played in each of the first four games this season, though he saw only special teams action during VT’s game at Duke. His one start at defense came at whip against Old Dominion, where he recorded five total tackles and one tackle for loss.
Despite what these stats seem to show, Hunter did not look comfortable at this position. The coaches had spoken well of his ability to stop the run since he switched from rover to whip. Sadly, he looked uncomfortable and even lost at times against ODU.
At the time of his commitment, Devon Hunter was one of the highest rated recruits of the Justin Fuente era. A high-end four star in the 2017 class, he had impressive offers from the likes of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and many others.
Most Virginia Tech fans expected Hunter to immediately push for playing time at rover. However, with the emergence of Reggie Floyd last season, playing time at this position became much harder to come by.
This offseason, Fuente and Bud Foster both shared their plans to move Hunter over to whip linebacker, where he would presumably be the heir to Mook Reynolds. Not long thereafter, Virginia Tech dismissed Reynolds from the team. This appeared to open Hunter’s path to a starting role.
Yet in the limited time he has seen at whip, Hunter looked largely out of place. In addition, Khalil Ladler has looked very comfortable at whip. This makes it hard to justify moving Ladler to another position, as the coaches had previously discussed.
So, the big question now becomes, “Where does Devon Hunter fit in?” He is apparently not experienced enough to challenge Floyd at rover, since the coaches moved him away from that position. He hasn’t looked that comfortable at whip just yet, at least from the small sample size we have seen.
Fuente was fairly clear with his remarks today. “We’ve talked to Devon, and really feel like we need to continue to develop Devon,” he said. “It’s looking more and more like he’s going to redshirt this year so we can continue to bring him along.”
Hunter has proven to be a person of outstanding character who is supportive of his team and teammates regardless of his playing time, and has embraced his opportunities on special teams.
Still, the coaches cannot just put someone on the field to “be athletic” on defense when most people at this level are fairly athletic in their own rights. They have to play a certain role, and this redshirt year should give Hunter time to figure out what that role will be for him. While it is a tough decision now, Fuente has made the right decision for both the team and Hunter himself in the long run.