Since committing to Virginia Tech in January of 2017, intrigue surrounding Devon Hunter has been constant and unwavering. When Hunter first arrived, dreams of the star 757 safety starting immediately and being a playmaker from the get go dominated Hokie Nation with plenty believing he had the skill set to even be a Freshman All-American (myself included in that).
However, Hunter didn’t reach those dreams as a freshman in 2017 being used largely on special teams as a backup safety.
In 2018, Hunter changed posutions from the natural rover to nickelback, a spot where he proved not to be a good fit with Khalil Ladler, who had a background at CB, claiming the job. That relegated Hunter to special teams to start the season before the Hokies decided to take advantage of the redshirt rule after 4 games during the 2018 season.
Meanwhile, a trio of true freshman rose to prominence with Christian Darrisaw starting every game at left tackle with Dax Hollifield and Tre Turner turning hype into reality and claiming starting jobs by the end of the season.
Entering the 2019 season, the intrigue around Hunter hasn’t lessened but the tone has gone from optimism to pessimism with lots of doubt and panic as to whether Hunter will ever pan out as once dreamed.
However, 2019 is a year for patience with Devon Hunter.
Yes, patience should continue to be embraced by fans throughout 2019 in regards to Devon Hunter even as other 2017 signees considered more raw start to develop and earn starting jobs like Tyjuan Garbutt.
Why patience instead of panic or doubt? There are a few valid reasons.
First, Devon Hunter isn’t going to start this year. The Hokies have committed to keeping him at his best position for good, rover, and VT has an experienced two-year starter and All-ACC caliber player in Reggie Floyd ahead of him.
Now some may point to this as a reason to be concerned about Hunter since he never was able to surpass Floyd unlike Dax Hollifield passing a fellow four-star during his freshman season. The fact that Hollifield did so should be seen as the exception to the norm with the odds Hunter was going to be able to in 2017 being low given the former four-star recruit’s talent.
Second, the Hokies have made a quiet statement of confidence that Hunter is the future at rover when they moved Chamarri Conner to the nickelback/whip linebacker spot. Conner has thrived since moving to that spot and is right in the battle for the starting job but moving Conner, who also seemed like a great fit at rover and was a four-star recruit, is also a statement about their confidence in Devon Hunter being the future at rover,
Third, Hunter has never truly had coaching or position stability during his time at Virginia Tech. Here’s a little timeline on that instability for Hunter.
When Hunter first arrived at VT, the Hokies had him working at rover with Galen Scott which lasted throughout the 2017 season. Then, Hunter makes a position change in the spring to the nickelback/whip linebacker which still falls under Scott’s territory.
After the spring of 2018, Scott would step down due to an incident on the recruiting trail with Tyrone Nix being hired to replace him, giving Hunter his second coach after having made a position change. Then, Hunter, not playing at a spot that fits him well, is unable to earn the whip linebacker job and after the Hokies decide to redshirt him, is likely starting to be transitioned back to rover, his second position change in less than two years on campus.
2019 sees one more change with Nix leaving for Ole Miss and being replaced by Justin Hamilton who had been on the Hokies’ support staff during the 2018 season.
So for a quick recap, Hunter has made position changes twice and had three different safeties coaches in 3 years with the closest thing to continuity being this current stretch with Hamilton simply being promoted in 2019 and likely having worked with Hunter during the 2018 season,
So yeah, imagine trying to build any sort of foundation when you’re going back and forth between positions while having a revolving door of coaches at your position. Not easy for anyone and not usually the easiest situation for development or trying to make a run at passing an All-ACC caliber starter on the depth chart.
Hunter is a smart player and has likely learned plenty from all three of his positions coaches but even for someone as talented as Hunter, this turmoil of sorts had to be a major challenge.
The thing is, Hunter now seems to have some consistency for the first time in his collegiate. He has a familiar voice coaching him at rover in Justin Hamilton who has had about a full year with him now mostly at rover. Hunter also has the benefit of having a great mentor in Reggie Floyd to learn from and a vote of confidence that he’s the future at rover given the move of Chamarri Conner.
Yes, the expectation/dream was that Devon Hunter would be a star for Virginia Tech already. He may not be yet but now is the time for Hokie fans to be patient with Devon Hunter, and not panic or give up hope about the potential that Hunter still has to be a great Virginia Tech defensive back.