Change In Approach

As running back Noel Devine prepares for his junior season with the Mountaineers, he is facing some newfound issues. For one, the Mountaineers are not ranked preseason. Going into last year, the Mountaineers were ranked No. 8 nationally. However, not being ranked doesn't seem to faze the speedy, shifty runner.

"It's good starting as the underdog and hopefully finishing on top," said Devine. "There's no pressure on us. I like it. Once you're at the top, everyone is aiming to beat you. I like where we are at. I think the team likes where we are at. We just have to work hard."

With those thoughts, Devine echoes those of many Mountaineer fans, who believe that West Virginia plays better as an underdog. However, he also knows that Saturday's opponent, Liberty, is in just that underdog role, so it could be an easy matter for the tables to be turned. Although many players may overlook beginning their season against a lower division school, Devine realizes that the team's debut performance will likely set a tone for the rest of the season.

"First impression is always the best," said Devine. "We have to come out hard. We have to come out ready. We have to show people how hard we have been working. I think we all know that so we're going to do what we have to do. "I'm so ready – so focused."

Devine is also quick to credit his offensive line, which will be key to his success in 2009. The front is one of the major question marks heading into the season, but he has nothing but praise for his blockers.

"[The offensive line] are my boys," said Devine. "Without them I wouldn't be part of who I am. I think they're doing great. They started out rough but they have ended up good. Jobe is coming along really well -- all of them are."

The relationship between back and line is a two-way street. Not only must the big guys up front clear the way, but the back must use them to maximum effect. Devine, who had some trouble setting up blocks and making the best decisions on some plays a year ago, has worked hard to learn how to press blocks and get the maximum yardage from each play.

"I wouldn't necessarily say that I've changed my style," Devine explained. "I would say it's just the little things like understanding the game a lot more and what the schemes the defense is going to be."

Along with the offensive line, the entire team has been working hard to wring the last bits of improvement out of preseason practice. But while most players are chomping at the bit to get to the first game of the season, Devine doesn't mind the work done on the practice field leading up to the game.

"Practice makes you better," said Devine. "I think we're all ready. We've spent three weeks getting at each other. We're ready to get at another team."

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