BLACKSBURG - Virginia Tech’s coaching staff envisions Devon Hunter becoming an impact player for the defense.
It just won’t be in 2018 for the whip linebacker.
On Tuesday, safeties coach Tyrone Nix addressed the Hokies' tentative plan to redshirt Hunter. Nix works with the team’s whip linebackers.
“Coach [Justin] Fuente and coach [Bud] Foster and myself, we all visited on the situation and with Devon’s current situation and his playing time, his development at the right moment, we felt like it was best for our football team and for him to maximize his ability by redshirting him,” Nix said.
Fuente announced the decision Monday when asked why Hunter didn’t suit up for Virginia Tech’s 43-25 loss to Notre Dame.
The NCAA modified redshirt rule this season allows players to play in any four games without losing a year of eligibility. The 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore out of Chesapeake, Virginia will go into 2019 as a redshirt sophomore as long as he doesn't play in another game this season.
Nix described it as a “tough decision” to make even with the new rules, but Hunter made it easier. The former five-star signee was involved with the discussions and agreed it was the best way forward.
“He actually wasn’t happy with himself at this current moment,” Nix said. “He felt like he could be a much better football player so what we decided to do was do what’s best for him and our football team and redshirt him.”
Hunter’s absence leaves a void at the No. 2 whip linebacker spot on the depth chart behind Khalil Ladler. Former junior college transfer Ishmiel Seisay played at the position against Old Dominion.
“What we’re doing, we’re looking at several different guys and he is a guy who’s played some,” Nix said. “...He’s very heady. If his position required us to play him some, we wouldn’t hesitate putting him in.”
The good news for Virginia Tech is that Ladler is playing well enough at the position to give the coaching staff time to develop some depth.
“We’ve experimented and we tried to move a lot of different guys in there,” Nix said. “The guy who played the position for the past couple of years has been Mook Reynolds. We’re looking for a playmaker and Ladler stepped in against Florida State and did a great job for us and continues to play well back there.”
Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook.