With a roster full of names like "Sam" and "Ken," freshman WR Divine Deablo tends to stand out a bit for the Hokies.
It may seem like a contradiction, featuring a mashup of one name evocative of heaven and another a little less so, but Deablo says that's exactly the point.
"The name came from my great grandfather," Deablo said. "He was a full-blooded Indian. My dad was picked on as a kid. They would call him 'The Devil' because of his last name. So he wanted to even that out for me by naming me Divine, like a godly devil. People couldn't pick on me. They just liked the name, I guess."
And while his name has certainly earned its place on lists compiling the best names in college football, fans are starting to see it pop up on the stat sheet a bit more in recent weeks.
Deablo only has one catch for eight yards, but his play on special teams this season is starting to get him noticed by the coaching staff, particularly after he forced a fumble last week against Pitt while wearing the "25" jersey to honor Frank Beamer.
"He works like he's a veteran," WRs coach Holmon Wiggins said. "That's the awesome thing that we've seen from Divine. He comes, he puts his hard hat on every day, works his tail off. He gives us a lot of added depth that we needed, especially from the receiver position. He brings some work ethic, some character, and he's pushing some of those guys that are on the side of him and also some of those guys that are in front of him."
By coming in as part of a large group of freshman or transfer wide receivers, Deablo knew early on that his role this year would be limited on offense. But he saw the chance to pitch in on special teams, and is hoping to soak up some knowledge in the meantime.
"Coming into the season, I knew I would be a big special teams player and a backup receiver for Bucky Hodges and not really get that much playing time," Deablo said. "But I knew I'd learn a lot for these upcoming years."
While Wiggins believes that Deablo playing right away has ultimately sped up his maturation process, he also knows that watching, and learning, from the guys ahead of him has led to his position on the depth chart.
"It's awesome, because he sees how those guys have gotten to where they are," Wiggins said. "He works extremely hard...He lays back, he gets the chance to bounce some ideas off of those guys, sees what works for those guys, and tries to add that to his game. You see him growing every day."
Being second on the depth chart has its advantages on the practice field as well. While fellow freshmen Phil Patterson, Eric Kumah, and Samuel Denmark have been stuck behind the top guys, Deablo has gotten to start working on his timing with quarterback Jerod Evans.
"I think he has a bright future," Evans said. "He's an explosive, lanky, tall, strong true freshman. That's what he is. He's still a pup. The athleticism and the gift is there. You can see it all over him."
Yet Deablo is still a long way from getting on the field consistently, and often had to sit and watch while Hodges, Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips put up huge numbers against Pitt. But as Deablo continues to develop over the coming weeks and months, he could soon be the one fighting for those 50/50 balls.
"I wanted those jump balls," Deablo said. "But it's fine. I'll wait my turn."
ON HOW MUCH DEABLO IS BENEFITTING FROM PLAYING THIS YEAR:
"I think it's good, because you see the maturation. He wants to be a guy out there. Obviously the one thing when we recruited those guys, we recruited them with the caveat of, 'Hey, you know what, there's not gonna be any time for you guys to waste. We need you guys to come in guns blazing and put the onus on us to have to make a decision whether you guys will play or not.' He's done a great job of putting that pressure on us. There's no doubt that he's shown promise. That's why he's out there on the football field."
ON IF HE'S EVER HAD A GAME IN HIS CAREER WHERE THREE RECEIVERS WENT OVER 100 YARDS IN THE SAME GAME:
"I wanna say I've had two, but not three. It was pretty impressive. We knew going in that it was going to be tough sledding trying to run the ball because of the structure of how those guys scheme up the defense. We told those guys going in that there's gonna be some opportunities and they rose to the occasion and did a good job of coming down with some of those balls."
ON IF THE ONE-ON-ONE SKILLS HAVE COME FROM THE WEIGHT GAINS OF THE RECEIVERS:
"I think it has. It's benefited all of those guys. Coach (Ben) Hilgart has done a great job just as far as getting those guys in the weight room and developing and changing those guys' bodies. Everyday we go in and battle our defense. I think that has actually helped us get ready for this type of game. To be in those tight situations and those one on one balls, whether it's Adonis (Alexander) or (Brandon) Facyson or (Greg) Stroman, any one of those guys, they've actually helped us get to this point."
ON IF DEABLO HAS EARNED MORE REPS AS A BACKUP AT RECEIVER COMPARED TO OTHER GUYS:
"By the way he works, there's no doubt. Every single game, he has a chance. He's played a lot on special teams. He's done some good things as far as getting what we're throwing at those guys, 'cause every week it changes based off the scheme that we see. So some plays that we may run may change drastically the next week, and he does a good job of adapting and adjusting to that and giving himself a chance to actually be one of those guys that come in."
ON WHAT HE SEES FROM PHILLIPS THAT HELPS HIM WITH JET SWEEPS:
"He's gotten better. We had him and C.J. (Carroll) and a couple of those other guys actually carry the ball. Isaiah's done a good job carrying it. Bucky's also carried the ball. But these last couple weeks he's doing a better job of getting more comfortable and actually going and fighting for some yards and taking care of the ball. Earlier this season he didn't do a good job of taking care of the ball. He saw some of those touches drop drastically. Now, he's doing a good job as far as ball security and doing what we're asking him to do. We're starting to trust him a little more with that."
ON IF THAT CONFIDENCE LED TO THE SWEEP CALL ON THE 3RD AND 1 NEAR THE END OF THE GAME AT PITT:
"It is. We trust him, the work that he's put in all week. All of those guys, it actually manifested on game day. We're looking for those guys to go back to the drawing board. We've got four days to go get ready for Duke. We're back at it."
ON HOW THE BLOCKING HAS IMPROVED ON THE PERIMETER THIS SEASON:
"It's improved a lot. At the beginning of the year, I was upset and a little embarrassed. I think those guys felt the way I felt. They've actually taken it to heart. Usually we're blocking, it usually doesn't start with how strong or how big you are, it's just in your head and your heart. Are you willing to do it? I think those guys are willing to roll up their sleeves a little bit and do the dirty work. Which is actually good. It makes those guys complete players as opposed to one-dimensional."
ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF SAMUEL DENMARK, ERIC KUMAH, AND JAYLEN BRADSHAW:
"All of those are developing. Right now, Denmark isn't traveling with us. Bradshaw, he's been a guy that we have played. He may not have the catches, but he's been playing the last few games. Kumah is also the same way. He's playing more of a bigger role on special teams, but he's also a guy that we sit there and may ask him to go in there and do a little bit of the dirty work. When those guys need a breather, he's ready to jump in there and make things happen."
ON IF HE TOOK IT AS A BADGE OF HONOR TO HEAR PAT NARDUZZI'S COMMENTS ABOUT THE RECEIVERS PUSHING OFF:
"We call them the 50/50 balls — when it's up there, it's gonna be a fight. Who's gonna come down with it? Our job is to go out and not necessarily wait to receive it, but we're gonna go up and retrieve it. Those guys did a great job of doing that."
ON IF HE LIKES PLAYING SPECIAL TEAMS:
"I do enjoy it, actually. It's another way for me to make big plays. I take advantage of it."
ON HOW SPECIAL IT WAS TO CAUSE THE FUMBLE AT PITT:
"Oh, it was unbelievable because I was wearing 25. It just felt unreal. I knew I was gonna make a big play. I didn't think it was gonna be that early, but I'm glad I made the play."
ON IF IT'S FRUSTRATING TO SIT BEHIND A TALENTED GROUP OR IF IT'S COOL TO LEARN FROM THEM:
"It's a little frustrating, because I'm used to playing, but it's also cool because I learn everyday from them. It's just making me a better receiver."
ON IF HE LEARNS THE MOST FROM HODGES OR IF HE TAKES THINGS FROM FORD AND PHILLIPS AS WELL:
"Actually, I try to take things from all three. They're great receivers and they all bring something different to the game."
ON WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WATCH ALL THREE GO OVER 100 YARDS:
"That was great. I was all hype on the sideline. I was especially hype for Cam because he wanted that game. He wanted a 100-yard game. I was happy for him."
ON IF HE WANTS MORE YARDS TO COME TO THE RUNNING BACK GROUP:
"It doesn't matter, if we're winning. Against Pitt, they loaded the box with eight in the box, so you've gotta get to the perimeter with the receivers and stuff like that. I just tried to block and get the job done. We won the game, so that's all that matters."
ON IF HE'S SEEN THE OFFENSIVE LINE START TO COME TOGETHER:
"They're doing a good job up front. If Pitt's loading the box like that, you can't run the ball. That's why Bucky, Cam, and Isaiah had a great game. We're just focused on winning. That's the main goal."
ON IF HE WAS SURPRISED PITT CONTINUED TO LOAD THE BOX:
"I was thinking that during the game, like, 'Dang, these guys don't care that they're getting thrown on?' But I'm kinda happy they did. We got the win against a really good team, so that's all that matters."
ON IF IT'S COOL TO SEE THE THREE RECEIVERS GO OVER 100 YARDS:
"Yeah, I think that's the first time that's happened, right? In Virginia Tech history? I think so. That's pretty awesome for those guys."
ON WHAT HE'S SEEN FROM DUKE:
"They don't load it up like Pitt. I think that's the first team who's ever loaded the box like that. But Duke has a really good team, so we're just gonna get prepared for them. They show a lot of looks and bring some pressure here and there. We're just getting prepared for those guys and trying to get another win."
ON IF IT'S HARD TO WATCH FILM OF A TEAM THAT'S BEEN INCONSISTENT:
"You just look at what they do. Look at the fronts, what blitzes they show, and stuff like that. You just get prepared for those things. You don't worry about how consistent they are. You just worry about your job and doing your job."
ON HIS CAREER HIGH AGAINST DUKE LAST YEAR:
"I'm definitely gonna go out there and try to rush for more so we can win this time. I'm just worried about getting this win and preparing against Duke."
ON IF HE FEELS HE'S RUNNING WELL RIGHT NOW:
"I think I'm playing well. I could continue to get better. Just gonna try to continue to get better at being patient and allowing things to develop. Just continue to get better in pass blocking and run blocking as well."
ON IF HE'S BECOMING MORE CONFIDENT IN THE NEW OFFENSE:
"I have confidence. I believe in my skill-set and everything I do. I believe everything the coaches do. We're just gonna get prepared for Duke and come out with a good gameplan and come out 1-0."
ON IF HIS ANKLE WAS TENDER THE DAY AFTER THE PITT GAME:
"After a game, I'm tender in general. Yeah, the ankle was kind of tender."
ON IF HE HURT THE SAME ANKLE AS EARLIER IN THE SEASON:
"Yeah, it's the same ankle as week 2."
ON IF HE'S EVER FACED A TEAM THAT LOADED UP THE BOX LIKE PITT DID:
"Oh yeah, high school...every team. We ran the ball 40 times a game, threw the ball 10. So yeah, I saw it every week. It reminded me of high school all over again. This time we just passed the ball more."
ON IF HE THINKS THAT'S HOW HE DEVELOPED HIS HARD-NOSED RUNNING STYLE:
"I think it's my mentality, period. The system I'm in, I'm trying to change that a little bit, protect my body more. That's just my mentality in general. I'm a hard-nosed type of guy."
ON IF DEABLO BENEFITS FROM WATCHING THE TOP THREE GUYS:
"All the wide receivers benefit from those guys. Those guys are nothing to play with. Those guys are elite. For you to be a young guy under them, whether that's him, whether that's Phil (Patterson), whether that's JUCO transfer Murph (Henri Murphy), you've got guys that learn from them every day. And vice versa, the guys learn from them. We all learn from each other and what we're doing."
ON IF HE'S SURPRISED TEAMS CONTINUE TO FOCUS ON THE RUN MORE THAN THE PASS:
"Yes. Extremely (surprised). Don't know why. Personally, I think it's disrespectful and an insult to the talent we have as a unit out there at wide receiver. I think those guys think the same way. You take what the defense gives you. If they wanna give you the passing game, you do that. If they wanna give you the running game, you do that. Just take what the defense gives you. Try not to do too much."
ON IF HE ENJOYS WHEN DEFENSES PLAY TO STOP THE RUN:
"Oh, I love it. I don't know (any) quarterback that wouldn't love to throw the ball all over the yard. That's why you play quarterback. Just like a wide receiver plays wide receiver to catch the ball. Running backs play running back to run the ball. I love throwing that thing."
ON IF THROWING FADES GET EASIER AS THE GAME GOES ALONG:
"I had to adjust my throw just from the simple fact that I couldn't lead them. I felt like they wouldn't get out of their breaks good enough — not because of them, because of circumstances — so I had to give them a better ball. I couldn't just lead them. I had to put more touch on the ball, put more air under the ball, so I can give a 6'7 Bucky Hodges, or I can give a wonderful hand guy in Isaiah and Cam, those guys can locate a ball anywhere on the field. Just giving them a better ball instead of just trying to let them run underneath it."
ON WHAT DUKE DOES DEFENSIVELY:
"Well obviously they don't just — they're not really gonna be stubborn and stack the box and stop the run. They're gonna do a lot of random stuff. They're gonna blitz from the field, the boundary, they're gonna drop eight people into coverage. They're gonna blitz, again. Cover three, cover two, it's all over the place. They're pretty sound in what they do."