Hamilton made his in-person debut last weekend and is expected to be with the Hokies (2-1, 2-1 ACC) when they play Boston College (3-1, 2-1 ACC) on Saturday night at Lane Stadium in yet another game in which only family of players and coaches are permitted to attend.
“We’re drawing up stuff on the sideline trying to get 11 people out there,” Fuente said, adding he even has contemplated inserting offensive players in the secondary. “It was like eighth-grade football. That’s what it was, so I hate it for our kids, but that was the situation we were in.”
Fuente did indicate he expects safety Divine Deablo to return against the Eagles, who are second in the ACC in passing (295.3 yards per game). The senior starter missed the past two games, including last week’s 56-45 loss to fifth-ranked North Carolina.
Freshman Keonta Jenkins, the other starting safety, also was out for the game in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Walk-on Tyler Matheny (Lake Braddock High) replaced Deablo for the past two games at free safety, and the Hokies rotated players at the other safety spot. Redshirt sophomore Alan Tisdale, normally an outside linebacker, finished last Saturday’s game at rover.
“It was just then and there at the moment,” said Tisdale, who missed a 38-31 win against Duke two weeks ago. “They needed me there at the position, and I mean, I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play nickel. I’ll play free safety if they need me to, so in that situation they needed someone there, so I just had to fill in.”
Jermaine Waller, normally a starting cornerback, moved to nickel when starter Chamarri Conner was disqualified for targeting. Waller, a D.C. native, missed the first two games of the year while recovering from a foot injury suffered last season.
The Hokies surrendered 656 yards of total offense, the second most in program history, and gave up the most points since 2002 after falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter and 42-17 in the second half. Two North Carolina running backs rushed for a combined 383 yards, including 214 from Michael Carter. The Tar Heels rushed for 399 yards overall.
“I wish I could just open it up and show you guys,” Fuente said. “It’s really an issue, quite honestly. You get a guy that I haven’t seen in 10 days, the first day it’s on the Friday walk-through. I mean, I literally hadn’t seen him yet, and he shows up, and he has to play 75 snaps at a position he’s never played.”
Virginia Tech absorbed another blow at safety when Fuente revealed this week that Tyree Rodgers will not play the rest of the season to concentrate on academics. The redshirt senior with three career starts had been listed second on the depth chart at free safety.
The Hokies are down to five scholarship safeties after the indefinite suspension of redshirt junior Devon Hunter, a projected starter, because of a felony arrest and a season-ending noncontact injury to Nasir Peoples, a redshirt sophomore, unrelated to the pandemic.
Others in the secondary who have missed time include starting cornerback Armani Chatman and his backup, Devin Taylor, in addition to Brion Murray, another reserve cornerback.
Virginia Tech is without its top cornerback for the rest of the season after Caleb Farley opted out to focus on the NFL draft, citing issues with the school’s virus safety protocols and some teammates flouting precautions by going to the beach and not getting tested upon returning to campus.
“We had some young players out there that played a tremendous amount of snaps in situations that they probably shouldn’t have been in that we really had no other choice,” Fuente said. “I’m hopeful that they can recover and play. I mean that does something to a guy when you’re a young player, and you’re in a situation like that, not just physically but mentally.”