Early Impact

In his first three collegiate games, freshman running back Noel Devine has certainly won the affection of Mountaineer fans far and wide.

A little bit closer to home, though, Devine has perhaps made his biggest impression on West Virginia assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee. Having scouted and recruited Devine throughout his prep career at North Fort Myers (Fla.) High School, Magee knew that he was getting a special player when the YouTube legend signed with the Mountaineers back in March. What he wasn't prepared for, at least initially, was how quick Devine would not only pick up the system, but make a significant impact on the nation's most explosive rushing offense.

"We knew he had the talent to," Magee said with an ever-present smile lighting up his face. "We knew he was something special. We knew it was going to come down to how much he could take in and how quick."

It's not as if Magee had never been in a situation such as this before. Each pre-season, freshmen backs come into the program looking to make a dent in the depth chart. Such a move is not unprecedented, but not even in West Virginia's best-case scenario has a rookie made an impact this big, this early.

"It took (Mountaineer junior running back Steve Slaton) all of camp and about three games (during Slaton's 2005 freshman campaign)," Magee noted. "(Devine), he really took it in, and it helped that he had Stevie there to help him take it in."

Indeed. After all, not every freshman has the luxury of learning from one of the nation's best. With a mentor such as Slaton -- a consensus All-American and legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate -- Devine can not only learn about the X's and O's of the power spread, but also learn how to handle himself with some of the additional responsibilities (i.e. media hype) that go hand in hand with being a bona fide big man on campus.

"I always encourage the guys to help out the young kids," Magee said. "Quincy (Wilson) did it, Kay-Jay (Harris) did it, Jason Colson did it. It's just something that goes on.

"Steve went through that, and he may be relieved that he can just focus on football (with Devine currently assuming duties as the media darling of the Mountaineer football beat). We have such a family atmosphere around here that there is a lot of support."

Whereas Slaton was an under-the-radar recruit, Devine was a very high-profile prospect. Virtually every big name coach in college football was beating down his door just for a chance to sell their program to the Florida prep sensation, who ran for a ridiculous 2,148 yards and 30 touchdowns as a high school senior. When Magee and head coach Rich Rodriguez got their chance to sit down with Devine, they were more interested in getting to know more about him as a kid than anything else.

"It was kind of special because past all of that hype and all of that stuff you sit down next to a young man who is just a kid," Magee recalled. "He needs to hear the right things, and needs to know that someone cares about him. He was less into (the hype) than one might think. He just wanted to know who was going to look out for him."

Ultimately, Devine followed his heart to the hills of West Virginia, a stark contrast to the sunshine and beaches of his native Florida. He signed his letter of intent on March 30, qualified academically not long after that, and reported to Morgantown over the summer to start his career in Blue and Gold.

Calvin Magee
And, as noted earlier, Devine has not only found guidance from Magee and the rest of the coaching staff, but also from Slaton. Near the end of the Maryland game last Thursday, ESPN cameras showed Devine leaving the playing field, heading in the direction of Slaton. The junior running back promptly picked up his diminutive understudy with a bear hug as the Mountaineers ran out the clock in their 31-14 victory. According to Magee, the "fast friends" (pardon the intended pun) share similar personality traits in addition to similar speed and productivity.

"They're both goofy," Magee said with a chuckle. "They're both very playful. I love it, because the kids are still in them. Even with (the constant attention) with Steve, he's a playful joker. Noel is the same way."

Perhaps it is the carefree and kid-like way he's carried himself that has made Devine such a great fit both in the locker room and on the football field.

"I think if the kid took things too serious right now, it would be too much on him," Magee said. "He's a serious kid; don't get me wrong, he cares about what he's doing. He balances that with playfulness and fun. He's fun to be around."

At the same time, Devine has appeared focused on more than just the football aspect of the 'Mountaineer Way.'

"You see the maturity in him," Magee admitted. "He understands he needs to go to school, get a college degree, and prepare for the rest of his life. When you talk to Noel one on one, you see that he cares about that, and that he's going to be willing to do whatever he needs to do to get to that point."

In just three games, Noel Devine has made a tremendous impact on the Mountaineer running game. His open-field jukes and cutting ability have fans salivating for the next time he gets the ball against a defender one on one.

Off the field, Devine hasn't been nearly as elusive. By all accounts, he's fit right in with teammates and coaches in the program as well as the community.

Needless to say, West Virginia's biggest recruit of 2007 has made a mountain-sized impact in more ways than one.

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