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Virginia Tech football: Divine Deablo impressive at safety for the Hokies

The sophomore played wide receiver as a true freshman in 2016.

NCAA Football: West Virginia vs Virginia Tech
Divine Deablo defends a pass late in Tech’s win over WVU
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Divine Deablo came to Virginia Tech in 2016 as a solid prospect at wide receiver. Head coach Justin Fuente thought so highly of Deablo that he didn’t redshirt him as a freshman last season. While Deablo didn’t receive many snaps at wide receiver last fall, it wasn’t due to a lack of ability. The Hokies had Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Cam Phillips at receiver last season. Deablo did prove to be a standout on special teams, even wearing Frank Beamer’s honorary No. 25 for one game.

Deablo impressed on special teams, playing in all 14 games and forced a fumble in Tech’s win at Pitt. That got the coaching staff to think that Deablo could be a star defensive back.

So, in the spring, the coaching staff decided to move Deablo to safety. Throughout the offseason, we heard very little about Deablo and his progression. However, in early August after fall camp began, word began to circulate that Deablo was thriving in his new role. He was listed as the second-team free safety behind All-ACC standout Terrell Edmunds.

Deablo spoke this week about his transition to safety and seemed fine with the move when approached by Fuente.

In the Hokies’ season-opening win over West Virginia, Deablo played a lot. And he played with Edmunds. He recorded six tackles, including one for loss. Deablo was physical and displayed good instincts in pass defense. In one sequence in the first half, Deablo was involved in three consecutive stops for Tech’s defense. Deablo’s rise comes at the perfect time for defensive coordinator Bud Foster. It gives him another talented player to put on the field that he can trust.

Foster was impressed with Deablo’s performance on special teams last season, specifically in terms of his physicality, per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“Obviously you could see his playmaking abilities from a tackling perspective in the kicking game,” Foster said. “He was probably our leading player on special teams last year.”

Deablo’s seamless transition to the defensive side of the ball is a bit surprising since he’s always offense. Fuente said he saw Deablo’s upside last season being on defense and that’s why he convinced him it was the best move for him and the team.

His upside on defense was much higher than his upside offensively, I thought. He was very productive in his time on the field last week. I think he’ll continue to get better. You’re talking about a young man that is incredibly athletic and long but is a tough, smart football player.

It was a bit of surprise to see Deablo on the field as much as he was in the season opener. That alone shows the trust Foster has in him. Expect his role to continue to grow throughout the season and the next few weeks would be a perfect opportunity for the coaching staff to continue getting Deablo reps before the big game with Clemson on September 30.