Moving to safety wasn’t supposed to happen for Divine Deablo.
Tons of players each year switch from wide receiver to defensive back, but coming out of high school, that was never in the cards for him. Heck, Deablo was a one-way player in high school and only played defense in Mount Tabor’s hailmary defense. He was a high 3-star recruit with offers from Clemson, Florida, Louisville, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and more, all presumably to play wide receiver. At 6-foot-3 and 180-pounds, he was an ideal recruit at receiver.
Fast forward to now, and Deablo is one of the most trusted defensive backs on Virginia Tech’s roster as a true-sophomore.
“Surprisingly, it comes very natural to me, and I really enjoy being back there,” Deablo said.
Deablo officially made the switch from wide receiver to safety in the spring, but the move was on the table before spring practice ever began. Deablo made just one reception last season in the East Carolina game, but was a special teams standout. Deablo played on multiple special teams units and forced a fumble on the kickoff team vs. Pittsburgh while wearing Virginia Tech’s No. 25 jersey, awarded weekly to one of the team’s best special teams players.
When head coach Justin Fuente decided to make the move, Deablo was all ears.
“He said the way I played on special teams my freshman year, particularly on kickoff coverage, he saw me make a few plays, a few tackles and against Pittsburgh, stripping the ball out,” Deablo said. “I guess that triggered something.”
“We really felt like it was an easy decision and to Divine’s credit, he took it in stride and jumped over there, and has worked incredibly hard,” Fuente said. “I didn’t have to come in there and really sell him on it. I was prepared to kind of lay out everything, but he said, ‘Ok coach, sounds good,’ and he’s gone over there and hasn’t missed a beat.”
Deablo made an immediate impact to start the 2017 season. Virginia Tech rotated him onto the field at free safety early vs. West Virginia, while moving starter Terrell Edmunds to rover. When Edmunds went down in the fourth quarter due to cramps, Deablo stepped in and finished the game. He had six tackles, a tackle for loss, and a near-interception on the final drive of the game.
“To be honest, I was prepared for it because Coach was saying all week, just trust your training,” Deablo said. “I’ve been training pretty hard all spring and summer, so I was ready for it.”
“I have to give all the credit to Coach Fuente on that one,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “Obviously, you could see his playmaking ability from a tackling perspective in the kicking game. He was probably our leading player on special teams last year. He probably wasn’t the most natural guy catching the football, that was probably factored a little bit into some things too. But, for a long body, seeing his suddenness, his explosiveness, how quick his feet are… he has defensive back qualities with his footwork and his suddenness there.”
Now, Foster has another reliable option in the defensive secondary. With Terrell Edmunds’ versatility, Deablo could see even more time on the field at safety in the coming weeks before Virginia Tech’s game vs. Clemson on Sept. 30.
“He was very productive in his time on the field last week,” Fuente said. “I think he’ll continue to get better. You talk about a young man who is incredibly athletic and long, but is a tough, smart football player. We didn’t feel like he was going to struggle to pick it up. We felt like he certainly could tackle and do the things that needed to be done in order to play defense.”