"I haven't seen moves like that since..."
"Did you see ..."
"He reminds me of..."
All of these statements have crossed the lips of people across the country. Pundits, analysts, and fans have had a hard time not paying attention to freshman West Virginia tailback Noel Devine.
Devine is often referred to as a "YouTube Legend." His highlights have been circulating the Internet for more than a year, usually linked off a forwarded email with something like "you aren't going to believe this kid" in the body of the message.
Pure handycam amazement—a high school kid dancing, dazzling, twisting, and turning his way to the end zone on the sort of runs we haven't seen since...
Barry Sanders, maybe?
That's a lot of hype for a "prep athlete," as they're called in today's recruiting language. After all, it's just high school. The competition isn't that good.
Critics figured Devine couldn't be that good.
Then came game number one.
Western Michigan coaches prepared for the Steve Slaton/Pat White onslaught—and rightfully so, because that duo led the Mountaineers to 62 points.
But while the nation may not have noticed, the West Virginia faithful saw flashes of brilliance from Devine, who ended the day with 44 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
And he was just getting started.
In game two, WVU traveled to Huntington to face rival Marshall. Devine made a statement in that one, running for 76 yards and two scores. More importantly, he provided a spark for a Mountaineer backfield that came out flat and lethargic.
Devine was held scoreless against Maryland in Week Three, but cracked the turtles' shells for 136 yards...on just five carries.
And it wasn't even the YPC that created the buzz.
It was the sidestep move he threw on two Maryland defenders, causing them to run into each other as if they were trying to tackle air.
It was the 5'7" freshman phenom dragging an opponent who had his hands wrapped around his facemask...and inevitably jerking free for a few more yards.
It wasn't the length of the runs, it was the way they played out.
Which brings us to where we are today—looking for the game's next superstar.
I've heard and read that Devine may be the next Barry Sanders, or Reggie Bush. Those are heavy expectations to put on such young shoulders...but Devine has been accustomed to expectations since recruiting services put him under the microscope after his sophomore year of high school.
Mountaineer Nation is expecting great things from Noel Devine, and he seems like the man to live up to they hype.
We can ask the question all day—"Is he the next Barry Sanders?"
That answer remains to be seen, but I can guarantee this much:
He's the first Noel Devine, and the Mountaineers couldn't be happier.