Returning for his senior season, tailback Noel Devine is currently the fifth leading rusher in West Virginia history, trailing only Avon Cobourne, Pat White, Amos Zereoue, and Steve Slaton.
And although it is certainly a tall order, I believe Noel has a good chance to be the Mountaineers’ all-time leading rusher when he hangs up the gold and blue jersey.
Moreover, if Noel breaks this seemingly insurmountable record, then I predict that he will also be awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Perhaps you now think I have lost my mind.
Now, before you rush to tell me that no West Virginia player has ever won the Heisman, I know of no legitimate reason why they couldn’t, particularly if the Mountaineers were to go undefeated throughout the regular season.
Unlike a number of the more prestigious programs that could still have a player win the Heisman with a three or four-loss season, it is likely that a Mountaineer players prospects for the award would be directly linked to the team’s performance.
For Devine to win, the Mountaineers must win. Furthermore, if Devine was to win, the Mountaineers would win.
Please allow me to explain.
In order for him to achieve this mark, Devine will have to rush for 1,784 yards.
Not counting an eventual bowl game, that is an average of approximately 148.7 yards per game.
Now while that may be improbable, it is certainly not impossible.
However, that is also one of the reasons I am optimistic about Devine’s chances.
Teams that win the ground game generally emerge with a victory. They dominate the time of possession; they keep the football out of the hands of the opposing offense.
In short, they win.
Therefore, I believe that kind of yardage per game by an individual player would easily result in a dozen Mountaineer victories and another Big East Championship.
Running behind a young and largely untested offensive line, Noel averaged 112.7 yards per carry last season.
This year, the young men in the trenches have another year under their belts. That should translate into more initial blocks, freeing the speedy Devine to do what he does besteluding would-be tacklers in the secondary.
In addition, fullback Ryan Clarke has added another year of experience and considerably more bulk, making him much more dominant as a lead blocker.
Devine’s 3,381 yards currently places him less than 600 yards behind former Mountaineer, Steve Slaton. He should break that record by the end of game four.
Noel only needs 1,100 yards to pass Pat White for second on the list, a figure that is significantly less than his seasonal yardage for the past two years.
Will he eclipse the mark of the former quarterback?
Providing he stays healthy, there is no doubt.
In fairness to the young man, these are my goals, not his.
I have never heard Noel talk about his personal goals or the individual records he would like to achieve. Showing a remarkable sense of maturity and humility, he often speaks about winning, being a leader, and fulfilling his role on the team.
Citing “unfinished business,” Devine chose to play out his collegiate eligibility. In so doing, he also increased the Mountaineers’ prospects of reclaiming their league title.
As one of the most well-known and elite players in college football, Noel Devine has one last season to leave an indelible mark on the game.
There is no question that Noel has already left his mark in the annals of West Virginia football.