Recruiting Rewind: Devon Hunter
Returning to our recruiting rewind ongoing article series, I look at likely starting 2020 safety Devon Hunter. In this series I am looking into offer lists, high school tape, measureables etc. and then compare a key player on the 2020 team to a new commit or recruit coming in.
Devon Hunter came in with arguably more pressure than any other recruit in recent memory. He was from the 757 and a product of Indian River High School in Chesapeake, Va. Given Virginia Tech’s history of recruiting major NFL superstar talent from this region (see Vick and Chancellor), Hunter was unfairly lofted to be the savior of recruiting this area and the next in line for superstardom by some. All of the hype was due to the ranking and assessment of Hunter out of High School. He was a deemed the 42ndbest player in the country and the 2ndbest out of the state of Virginia by 247 sports with a composite ranking of .9799 which is the highest ranking we have seen from a recruit since Kendall Fuller back in the 2013 class. His offer list reflected the hype as well with offers from major programs in the country including former and eventual national champions in Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State with many others. He picked the Hokies over all of those powers on 1/20/2017 and was the main course of our 2017 recruiting class.
Hunter was the type of athlete at the high school level whose athleticism forced his coaches to play him on both sides of the ball and all over the field. His high school tape even shows him returning punts. He always projected as a safety at the next level and that is where is expected to contribute this year for the Hokies. It is impossible to miss his pop on film and his hard-hitting mentality. He isn’t afraid to throw his body around and just punish opposing skill players. He shows the ability to track down pass catchers and even shows solid closing speed to break up passes. If you are nit-picking, you could say his film shows his need for development in coverage skills. There are some plays where angles and technique could improve. In high school his athleticism saved him because he was able to close those gaps easier. At the next level, Hunter will be forced to develop advanced coverage techniques to be successful and the work he has put in to get to that point the last two seasons will hopefully pay off this year.
The saga of Hunter is well-known to the typical major Hokie football fan. Hunter struggled to see the field in his freshman year and was deemed a developmental project who will burst on the scene in a few years and be that superstar he was projected as. He redshirted in 2018 and then in 2019 filled in for Reggie Floyd during injury but was stuck behind Floyd most of the year. He showed serious flashes in the North Carolina and Notre Dame game last year and 2020 is posited as his coming out party. He will be called upon to be a factor in the defensive backfield this year and time will tell if this saga ends in success, but there is good news from camp and Hunter has worked his tail off to be that game-changing player. Seeing a guy like Hunter get a shot has to excite new Hokie defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton who also had a limited role in his first few years and then broke onto the scene and was an eventual NFL guy. Hunter and Hamilton both are looking to come into new roles and impress in 2020 with more responsibility on both of their shoulders.
Current 2021 commit comparison: Will Johnson from St. Mary S. Ryken in Leonardtown, MD.
Johnson has nowhere near the hype and expectations that came with Hunter to Virginia Tech. This comparison is solely due to their tape and projection on the field. Johnson is a similar size to Hunter at 6’2’’ 210 where Hunter was listed at 6’1’’ 205 coming out of high school. This comparison is also due to versatility. Johnson also played on the offense in high school and shows that he can play all over the defense as well. He lined up mostly at safety but also showed good skills as an outside linebacker. Johnson could project in either position in Hamilton’s defense, and he like Hunter, is in need of some development at either position. Johnson shows serious hard hitting ability just as Hunter did from the safety spot. They both have the downhill hitting mentality that opposing receivers and backs will be mindful of going through the middle of the field. Johnson looks to be another developmental project on the Hokie defense as Hunter was but could contribute and bring a fearless mentality to that side of the ball in the long term.