Devine: Ready To Roll

When Noel Devine visited West Virginia's campus, he fell in love with it. From there, neither the neon lights of Southern California nor the Neon Deion of southern Florida could persuade him to be anything other than what he is: A Mountaineer.

"Look around," Devine said during his first meet and greet with the media. "It's a nice program, nice people. This is where I can better myself the most. It was basically my decision (on where to attend college). I am just here to play West Virginia football. When I took my visit I fell in love with the place and wanted to come here."

Deion Sanders, a former Florida State player and a mentor to Devine, wanted the fellow North Fort Myers High graduate back to spend one year at a prep school, then select a college. It was rumored that Sanders did everything he could to convince Devine that a prep year would not only be an advantage, but a near necessity. No dice. Devine inked a binding letter of intent on March 30, choosing WVU over Florida State's Seminoles.

Not that Sanders was the only one to put a full-court press on the Scout.com five-star tailback and the nation's No. 1 prep runner overall. West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez personally drove Devine around town during his official visit – until the tailback asked him not to.

"I said I wanted to go back with the other guys," Devine said. "I asked why I was getting special attention. I didn't want it. I am one of the guys."

Maybe. Devine is considered a breakaway back. His balance is being compared to Barry Sanders. Almost impossible to knock off his feet, the 5-8, 170-pounder has the burst and overall speed (4.35 in the 40) to make coaches drool. Add in that he can make defenders miss in space and has a knack for running through arm tackles more often than anticipated, and Devine, who ran for a Lee Country-record 6,842 yards with 92 touchdowns, is indeed a special player.

"All I can say is that I am blessed, and that was the past," Devine said. "I am trying to do bigger and better things now. I'm trying to do well in the future."

West Virginia paired Devine with All-American tailback Steve Slaton in its Big Brother program, an organized setup of new and returning players on the team. The idea is that the veterans assist the newcomers in adjusting to college, both in life and playing style. Devine will start classes Monday, and with that, a new set of pressures will emerge. Slaton hopes he can help balance the expectations with the education, on and off the field.

"He is teaching me the offense and everything about the program," Devine said. "Me and him are pretty close. I learned that you have to be patient and stay humble. We're here to play West Virginia football. That's a team thing, and we will wait and watch if we have to."

Unlike fellow freshman stud Brandon Hogan, who played in the spread at Virginia's Osbourne High, Devine ran out of a traditional Wing-T scheme in high school. That has proven to be a stumbling block initially, but no more so than for any other player.

"It's a lot faster," Devine said. "Everybody has to do their job for everything to go right. I am getting to learn (the offense), me and Jock Sanders. It's basically that you have to read the zone, the block and go. And make one move. You have to limit your moves. But we'll get it down pat. We're comfortable now and are learning signals. It's a lot different."

He noted that he has seen some of his highlights - like rushing for 2,148 yards and 31 scores as a senior - on YouTube.com. But like most everything else thus far, Devine has said and done all the right things since coming to Morgantown.

"I don't watch them much," he said. "I want to stay level-headed. I'm just here to play Mountaineer football."


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