Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
The day after Christmas saw Virginia Tech defensive All-ACC members Divine Deablo and Jarrod Hewitt declare for the 2021 NFL Draft rather than return for an extra season in Blacksburg.
For those who have passed, For those to come 🤝 Thank You! pic.twitter.com/5nURCkJfd8— Divine Deablo (@DeabloDivine) December 26, 2020
Forever grateful 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/6QGzldbF3B— Jarrod Hewitt (@HewittJarrod) December 27, 2020
This comes after Deablo was named to the All-ACC First Team this past week while Hewitt earned All-ACC Third Team honors. Both players were seniors this past season, but had the opportunity to return next year due to the NCAA's decision to make this a free year for fall student-athletes (they've done the same for winter ones since then).
Deablo's decision isn't a surprise as he projects to be a day 2 NFL Draft pick at worst at this point with the potential to jump in the first round discussion with a strong combine and pro day process. His strong senior season undoubtedly boosted his draft stock with 55 tackles including 2 for loss plus a career high 4 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble in 9 games.
In the process, Deablo established himself as one of the best safeties in the draft proving extremely versatile while his absence for 2 games showed how valuable he truly was to this Tech defense.
Deablo finishes his career with 206 tackles including 12.5 for loss (0.5 sacks) plus 6 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, and 3 forced fumbles in 33 starts over 51 games played.
He definitely leaves a big hole at safety with Devin Taylor a top contender to stay at free safety with J.R. Walker likely to be the next guy up to pair with Taylor. Keonta Jenkins remains a sleeper after earning multiple starts at the start of the season as a true freshman while a healthy Nasir Peoples should challenge for a starting job as well.
Hewitt's decision is a surprise to an extent as most thought he would likely return, but it's hard to blame someone turning down a fifth year of CFB and sixth year of college for the chance to pursue a pro career. Hewitt also had a pair of career highs with 8.5 tackles for loss including 5.5 sacks among his 31 tackles this season in 11 games, 10 of which were starts. He finishes his career with 92 tackles including 17.5 for loss (9.5 sacks) with 33 starts among 45 games.
Looking ahead, Hewitt seems likely to be an undrafted free agent, but has shown signs of growth combined with an All-ACC senior season that could give him a chance at sneaking into the day 3 selections.
For Tech, it'll be interesting to see how things shuffle out at defensive tackle. Norell Pollard started a bunch this season and would seem like a likely starter while a healthy DaShawn Crawford should have a great chance to start. Mario Kendricks should also challenge while Josh Fuga has ideal size and has shown tons of promise, making himself a potential breakout candidate who could surprise.
Additionally, it wouldn't be surprising if Tech looks for a veteran DT who could come in and start immediately that also brings some more size to the DT spot for Tech.