By Marty Gordon
COVID-19 has hit Blacksburg hard over the past week with positive numbers rising on and off campus. This concern includes the football team as Virginia Tech officials have postponed the Virginia game to a later date in response to the increased numbers.
In a prepared statement, the university said the decision was made after consultation with Atlantic Coast Conference officials, counterparts at the University of Virginia, campus leadership at Virginia Tech and Dr. Mark Rogers, Chief Medical Officer for Virginia Tech Athletics, out of concern with COVID-19 issues at Tech.
The announcement did not specify how many VT players, if any, had tested positive for the virus and did not set a new date for the Virginia game.
Director of Athletics Whit Babcock said the safety and the physical and mental well-being of the young men and women entrusted to the university’s care by their families remain the school’s top priority.
Virginia Tech is now scheduled to open the 2020 football season on Saturday, Sept. 26 against NC State at Lane Stadium.
“While we share the disappointment of everyone who hoped to begin the football season against our in-state rival, we remain optimistic that a full ACC football schedule can be played thanks to the flexibility the present format permits,” Babcock said. “Despite this delay, our schedule still aligns closely with the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 football timelines.
“We appreciate the continued support of [VT] President [Tim] Sands for our student-athletes and Tech athletics as we navigate these unprecedented times. We are still optimistic about fall Olympic sports playing their schedules. We likewise support Dr. Sands and our campus officials as they remain committed to providing the best learning environment possible under the circumstances this semester.”
“My primary concern continues to be the well-being of the student-athletes on our football team,” said VT head football coach Justin Fuente. “I hurt for them because I know how badly they want to compete. I also appreciate that these young men have been dealing with the same stress, uncertainty and anxiety as their fellow Virginia Tech students over the past few months as their spring semester was dramatically altered. Then they were forced to find a way to train on their own, and to their credit, they found a way to get it done.”
The ACC has already filled the UVA date for the Hoos with Duke. The Duke at Virginia game was originally scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14, and will now be played on Saturday, Sept. 26. Both teams previously shared an open date on Sept. 26.
The Miami at Louisville game on Saturday, Sept. 19, will now be played at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. UCF at Georgia Tech will remain at 3:30 p.m. but will now be aired on ABC.
As was previously announced, the 2020 ACC Football scheduling model includes 11 games (10 conference plus one non-conference). The 11 games will be played over at least 13 weeks with each team having two open dates. The two open dates for each team allow the flexibility, to make necessary adjustments.
In other news from Hokie-land, Fuente announced the 2020 football team captains as voted on by the squad: seniors Divine Deablo, Tyrell Smith, Jarrod Hewitt and Rayshard Ashby This was the second consecutive season both Deablo and Smith have received the honor from their teammates.
Ashby (5-10, 245) was named ACC Linebacker of the Week five times in 2019. The native of Chesterfield, Va., was the only defensive player in the league to win that many ACC POW honors in 2019. Ashby was a second-team All-ACC selection and finished third in the voting for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was selected to the 2020 All-ACC Preseason Team earlier this year.
Ashby led the league with 120 total tackles and ranked third in the ACC with 17 tackles for loss. He led a VT defense that helped the Hokies become the first ACC team to post back-to-back shutouts against Power-Five foes for the first time since 1978 as the defense pitched shutouts against Georgia Tech and Pitt.
Deablo (6-3, 226), started all 13 games at free safety during the 2019 season and finished second on the squad with a career-best 84 tackles (42 solo). The redshirt senior also had an interception, a forced fumble and a 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Notre Dame. Deablo was selected to wear Coach Beamer’s number 25 jersey twice during the season. Deablo was named to the PFF College ACC Team of the Week after posting four tackles in a 28-0 win over Pitt (11/23/19). He posted a season-best 11 tackles at Virginia (11/29/19).
Deablo was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl Top 250 earlier this month.
Hewitt (6-1, 280), set career highs in all performance categories in 2019, starting all 13 games on the defensive line. The Venice, Fla., native registered 33 tackles that included 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Hewitt had a career-high six stops in the Belk Bowl vs. Kentucky (12/31/20) and also forced a fumble against the Wildcats. He was the overall Hard Hat winner in the 2019 strength and conditioning program.
Smith (6-3, 300), a graduate student, made four appearances in 2019 before being sidelined with a foot injury suffered against Duke (9/27/19). For his career, the North Brunswick, N.J., native has played in 44 games. Earlier this year, Smith was honored at the fifth annual Uplifting Black Men’s Conference at Virginia Tech, receiving the Black Male Excellent Network’s (BMEN) leadership award. This award recognizes a community member who has demonstrated exceptional leadership through their involvement and impact on the lives of black male students at Virginia Tech.