Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
After only having one senior starter in Reggie Floyd, Virginia Tech has seen three more starters leave this offseason with Dalton Keene and Deshawn McClease entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and Damon Hazelton entering the transfer portal.
With that said, we'll start our look at how Virginia Tech will replace each of these players by looking at the defensive side with Reggie Floyd.
Floyd was a three-year starter for the Hokies at rover with 5 interceptions, 10 pass breakups, and 13.5 tackles for loss over those three seasons as a starter. Floyd wasn't as productive in 2019 as he was in 2018, but he was still a reliable safety who had a career high 8 pass breakups to go with 69 tackles including 1 for loss.
Floyd was never the best in coverage, but he was able to be competent in zone coverage while also being a very good box-to-box safety at the rover spot. More importantly, Floyd was a valuable leader on the defensive side of the ball and was definitely part of the reason for Tech's defensive improvement in 2019 both because of his on the field and off the field play.
With Floyd graduating, he will leave not only an opening at rover, but also room for other players to step into his leadership role.
First and foremost is replacing Floyd at rover with Devon Hunter being the overwhelming favorite to take over that starting job.
Hunter came in as one of the most highly-regarded recruits in recent memory for Virginia Tech, but always faced an uphill battle to earn playing time at rover with the more experienced Reggie Floyd ahead of him. That led Hunter to experimenting at the whip linebacker/nickelback but proving not be a fit there during the 2018 offseason, leading to him redshirting.
Since, the Hokies moved him back to rover and embraced him as the future at rover, especially with Chamarri Conner adapting well at the nickelback spot. Tech moving Hunter back to rover has looked good in limited reps this past season as he had 16 tackles playing defense and special teams.
Most notable was the fact that Hunter earned some regular playing time by the end of the season at the rover spot rotating in for Reggie Floyd while making 2 starts on the season.
Hunter has proven to be a solid run defender and may be a more consistent tackler even if he isn't as big of a hitter as Floyd. Hunter has also shown plenty of potential in coverage and with rumors of Tech running more zone under Justin Hamilton, that could be a better fit for Hunter than the high amount of man that Bud Foster ran.
Of course, there will definitely be plenty of pressure on Devon Hunter to reach the level that most were expecting him to reach sooner than this. To his credit, Hunter has done a great job of ignoring the pressure and staying focused on his own development while waiting patiently for his opportunity to come, whether it's been the limited opportunities this past season or the opportunity that awaits him now.
There's plenty of unknown with Hunter in terms of how good he can be, but what we've seen in limited reps shows that he has the skills to be a quality replacement for Hunter with a high ceiling.
In terms of leadership, expect Divine Deablo; as another third-year starting safety like Floyd, to be someone to take on a greater leadership role in the secondary and defense as a whole while Caleb Farley and even the aforementioned Devon Hunter may also take on larger roles. Rayshard Ashby also seems poised to take on a greater role as Tech's defensive leader this upcoming season.
Replacing Reggie Floyd won't be easy, but the Hokies have Devon Hunter ready to be the next man up with multiple older players expected to replace Floyd's leadership in the secondary and on the defense as a whole.