Virginia Tech fall practice Aug. 3

Virginia Tech receiver Hezekiah Grimsley, No. 6, catches a pass with Divine Deablo in coverage at practice on Aug. 3, 2019. 

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech safeties coach Justin Hamilton shares a few similarities with his new pupil Divine Deablo.

The two changed positions during their collegiate careers — both going from wide receiver to safety with Hamilton taking a detour at running back — and possess near identical builds.

Deablo measured 6-foot-3, 223 pounds going into fall camp this year while Hamilton’s bio from his NFL days listed him at 6-foot-3, 222-pounds.

“He is what I wish I would have looked like in college,” Hamitlon said, before Tech’s practice on Friday. “Our numbers are the same — height and weight — but in terms of how we look? That’s what I wish I would have looked like.”

Hamilton hopes he can help Deablo add one more similarity to the list by putting him on a path to a professional career.

“When it’s all said and done, I think people will look back really fondly on him because he’s a warrior,” Hamilton said. “He’s a battler.”

Deablo's toughness was on display the last two years as he battled numerous injuries starting with the season-ending ankle injury he suffered only four games into the 2017 season. Deablo only missed two games last year, but battled various ailments from Week 1 on as the team’s starting free safety.

“I can honestly say I was never 100 percent last year,” Deablo said, during spring camp.

Hamilton, who was promoted to safeties coach during the offseason after spending 2018 as Tech’s director of player development, knows it hasn’t been an easy road for Deablo.

“I have the utmost respect for him,” Hamilton said.

Virginia Tech had Deablo run less in the spring and monitored his overall workload to keep his lower body fresh. The coaching staff hopes the change to Deablo’s offseason conditioning program prevents anymore setbacks.

Deablo was at 100 percent during limited viewing windows for the media in the spring and fall. He had some competitive battles in one-on-one drills against Tech’s wide receivers on August 3. The Hokies weren’t in pads yet, but Deablo looked strong in coverage and had no issues going step-for-step against the speedy Hezekiah Grimsley.

“The hope for him is that every day we can go out and help him get better...,” Hamilton said. “That’s really what he wants to do, that’s why I love the guy so much because he genuinely wants to put on the cleats and the helmet and go out and get better.”

That day to day improvement was impossible last year with Deablo getting limited practice reps. He still had 55 tackles (4.5 for a loss) with two pass breakups, but Hamilton wants to see more.

“I think if he will continue to do that (get better) and we will continue to help him do that then wherever it ends up for him, I think it will be his maximum potential,” Hamilton said.

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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