I'll admit it. I am 22 years old. I have certainly not seen enough college football to make the most informed decision on this matter, but I have seen a lot of really great, exciting players across the country. In the past couple years alone, guys like Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Devin Hester, and DeSean Jackson are just a small number of the many incredible players that have graced the college landscape. Trying to pick the most exciting player from this list is near impossible. Each player brings something different to the table.
Two other players on this list share a backfield in Morgantown, West Virginia. For the past two years, Pat White and Steve Slaton have made opposing defenses look silly. Trying to pick which Mountaineer is more exciting is an exercise in futility. Until recently, I didn't know who to pick either. Now I do.
Enter Noel Devine, the heralded freshman from Florida. Nothing against White or Slaton, but Devine is absolutely incredible. Nothing against the guys mentioned in the first paragraph, but I am not sure I have seen any player like Devine. The ceiling on this kid is unbelievable. I know he has only played in three games, and three games does not a career make.
When comparing Devine to a young Reggie Bush, for example, you can see the immediate impact he has had. In his freshman season, Bush carried 90 times for 521 yards (a very good 5.8 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. Devine has played three games and has 256 yards and 3 touchdowns. Oh yeah, those 256 yards are on 17 carries. That is over 15 yards per carry. He is on pace for 1024 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. If he were to have those statistics, that would place him third in rushing on his own team. (That fact alone says something about the talent in West Virginia's backfield, but that is another story for another time) The numbers he has the ability put up when he is the featured back in that offense could are limitless.
It is not just the early video game-like numbers that Devine is putting up, it is the way he runs, the way he jukes, the way he shrugs off potential tacklers. He has already elicited comparisons to the way Barry Sanders ran in college. You know, Heisman winner and Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. That compliment does not get thrown out there too often. Thursday night against Maryland, Devine only ran the ball five times, all in the second half. The five carries were as follows: 31 yards, 76 yards, 18 yards, 5 yards, and 6 yards. The last two carries came as WVU ran the clock out, and the third carry included a pair of jukes that left three Maryland defenders lying on the ground and then drawing a 15 yard facemask as the defender tried to perform an exorcist like maneuver. One problem, the facemask was not enough to bring Devine down. He shook it off and gained another ten yards before being dragged out of bounds by a number of defenders.
I understand that Devine is a small back, and inevitably he will take some big hits. You always have to see how a small back reacts after the first time he really gets popped. Maybe some will not think that he is a great candidate for the NFL because of his size. Even if that is the case, though I do not believe it to be, he is going to be a very special player for West Virginia. In fact, mark him down for the Heisman in 2009.