Hokies Most Likely to Earn #1 Jersey
One of the coolest and most unique things Justin Fuente has ever done as head coach of Virginia Tech football is implementing a team vote for who should wear the #1 jersey each year.
After “retiring” the number after Isaiah Ford graduated in 2016, citing a desire to keep players from wearing the jersey to show they are above the team, Fuente brought it back in 2019 after a clever idea from some of his players.
The idea was to give the jersey to one player for the whole season. And not just any player; a player voted by his teammates as the team’s leader.
According to Virginia Tech Athletics, the players were told to vote for a player who “epitomizes the Virginia Tech work ethic, a team-first attitude and a willingness to do whatever it takes to help himself and his teammates improve on a daily basis.”
The first player to earn this honor last season was senior safety Reggie Floyd.
Floyd was the only senior starting on the defense, and he had been one of the team’s leading tacklers each of the previous two seasons. Frankly, the choice was a no-brainer.
Now that Floyd has graduated, it will soon be time for the Hokies to choose a new #1.
Here are a few guys that I think have a good chance of earning that honor.
Without a doubt the Hokies’ best defensive player, senior linebacker Rayshard Ashby is a great candidate to wear the #1 jersey.
Having started almost every game for the Hokies the past two seasons, the 5’10, 245-pound linebacker from Chesterfield, VA would make a lot of sense.
In those two seasons, Ashby wracked up 225 tackles and was an All-ACC player twice, earning a Second Team spot in 2019 and an Honorable Mention spot in 2018. He was also named ACC Linebacker of the Week five times last season.
There’s no doubt Ashby will be the anchor of this defense under new Defensive Coordinator Justin Hamilton. His leadership both on the field and in the locker room has been praised by coaches and teammates since he became a starter in 2018.
When it comes to looking for the face of this Virginia Tech team, Rayshard Ashby is a great place to start.
Another senior starter on the Hokies, safety Divine Deablo is another great candidate for the #1 jersey.
Deablo is the longest-tenured Hokie starter, as he is the only player who has seen time on the field every year since 2016.
Having battled injuries and a position change, Deablo had to scratch and claw to become the player he is today.
Originally recruited as a wide receiver, Deablo spent his first year in Blacksburg struggling to find a role. He only recorded one catch for eight yards and spent the rest of the season playing kickoff and punt coverage on special teams.
Between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he made two changes: his position and his number.
Deablo moved to the defensive side of the ball, trying his luck at free safety while transitioning from #88 to #17.
Despite learning a new position, Deablo’s first year at safety started incredibly well. Backing up Terrell Edmunds, Deablo was regularly in the two-deep rotation, including playing crucial minutes in the Hokies’ thrilling win against West Virginia.
However, an injury derailed his season, as he was knocked out for the year shortly after tallying his first career interception. He would take a medical redshirt that year.
Deablo came back in 2018 as a starter but battled more injuries off-and-on through that whole season.
Finally, he had the breakout campaign he had been dying for in 2019, as he finished second on the team with 84 tackles.
Now, Deablo is a redshirt-senior and ready to lead his team.
Through all the adversity he has gone through, as well as all his experience, he is a top candidate to wear #1.
Though Turner is not a senior, he has still been a vocal leader for the Hokies since his freshman season.
Few true freshmen in Virginia Tech’s history have made as big an impact as Turner did in 2018, and that continued in 2019.
With over 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns over his first two seasons, Turner has been the most consistently useful player on the Hokies’ offense. He led the team in receptions last season.
They call him “Big Play Tre” for a reason, as he has averaged 18.1 yards per reception and 10.4 yards per rush in his career. Every time he touches the ball, the Hokies get a first down.
With no expected senior starters at the skill positions on offense, the team will need juniors like Turner to lead the team well.
Much like Floyd was, Turner has been a consistent voice for the team with the media, which is something Fuente appears to value very much.
Though he may not be as likely to get the jersey as Deablo or Ashby, he is still a worthy candidate.
Who I think it will be: Divine Deablo
While either of these guys would be great candidates to wear the #1 jersey, I believe Deablo has the best case of any.
Having been a member of the team for every game of Fuente’s career, he has more experience than almost every player on the team.
The adversity he has overcome is truly impressive and is one of the best stories on this Hokie team. Through all the position changes and injuries, Deablo has emerged as one of the Hokies’ best players and even a strong NFL Draft prospect.
Who would have thought after that disappointing freshman season that Deablo would be here, leading the defense and drawing comparisons to VT legend Kam Chancellor?
When it comes to the work ethic, team-first attitude and willingness to do what is needed, who better than the man that changed from his preferred position to help the team?
I believe Divine Deablo will earn the #1 jersey this season, and he will wear it as he leads the Hokies’ best defense since 2017 and continues to climb up the draft boards.