BLACKSBURG - Virginia Tech plans to take advantage of the new NCAA redshirt rules to develop Devon Hunter, one of the program's highest rated signees in recent history.
Hunter played 10 games last season as a true freshman in 2017 with much of his playing time coming on special teams.
The 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore out of Chesapeake, Virginia played the first four games this year, but did not dress for Saturday's game against Notre Dame. Coach Justin Fuente explained the decision during his weekly press conference on Monday.
“We’ve talked to Devon," Fuente said. "We really feel like we need to continue to develop Devon, so it’s looking more and more like he’s going to redshirt this year so we can continue to bring him along.”
The NCAA relaxed the redshirt rules this season allowing players to play in any four games of the season without losing a year of eligibility. As long as Hunter doesn't play in another game this season, he will go into 2019 as a redshirt sophomore.
Fuente anticipates keeping Hunter at whip linebacker, but didn't completely shut the door on a position change either.
"I mean, you know, his heart is on the defensive side of the ball and we want to continue to give him an opportunity to have success and come along," Fuente said. "If he goes through this year redshirting, we’ll look at everything in the spring and try to evaluate where he needs to be in the secondary. I’m not sure about that, but there’s been no other discussion about drastic changes, I guess.”
Hunter spoke openly about the challenges he faced going from a traditional safety spot to whip during the preseason.
"Playing man coverage," Hunter said. "Coming from (safety), you really don’t cover a lot man-to-man. You play in space, so I knew I had to come down a lot on slot receivers and play in open space, and come off the edge a little bit more. I know I have to get better at that, but it’ll come.”
While the defensive coaching staff talked about Hunter having a larger role after Mook Reynolds was dismissed from the program, Khalil Ladler settled in as the starter. Much of Hunter's playing time this season came against Old Dominion when Ladler moved over to free safety for an injured Divine Deablo.
Five of Hunter's eight tackles this season came in the 49-35 loss.