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A conversation about the experience that was Noel Devine – 247Sports

Mar 19th, 2020

The following is an abbreviated transcription of the March 18 edition of the College Football Daily podcast, titled 'The Rewind: How Noel Devine became a cultural phenomenon' in which host Trey Scott and 247Sports National Analyst Charles Power reminisce on one of the most famous recruits ever. You can listen to the full episode here.

Trey:"Let's go back to themid-2000s. A simpler time. If you were like me, you were spending your lunch break testing the limits of your high schools library computers specifically, YouTube, which had launched a year earlier. So its January 2006.The recruiting industry was exploding.Texas and USC had just played the best game ever. Reggie Bush was about to go to the NFL. And on January 11, a video simply titled Noel Devine High School Running Back gets uploaded to YouTube, and we all sort of lost our minds."

Charles:"I remember seeing it. It was kind of a deal where, nobodys gonna tackle this guy. Hes spinning out, running backwards, all over the field horizontally, and the plays where ending up as touchdowns. Its one of those deals where youre talking to your friends and youre like, Man, you gotta see this. This kid doesnt get tackled. Period. It was one of those moments where it transcended strictly the recruiting sites and became a deal where everybody had to see this guy on this new site called for YouTube.

"And there was video of him, too, on the recruiting networks when he was a freshman and sophomore. It had been building and building then it became a deal where he was kind of the first guy where the video became so widespread. Reggie Bush had some amazing high school highlights, but a lot of them were put out retroactively.

Trey: Thats funny you mention Reggie Bush. Before I watched Noel Devine, I watched Reggie Bushs old highlights the video was 619, All The Time. Its sick. When we were watching Noel Devine, were we thinking about Reggie Bush? This is right after Reggie had just finished a multi-year tour de force throughout college football."

Charles:"I dont think its a coincidence. Reggie Bush was a college football phenomenon for sure. I think kind of the inclination for a lot of people was, when you see a player like Reggie Bush, is to look for the next Reggie Bush. A lot of times, that can be fault. You have to realize, maybe this player is a unicorn. But I think that definitely kind of played a role with Noel Devine. There was a very high appetite for smaller, faster running backs who were making crazy high school plays."


Note: Devine ranks No. 13 in the class of 2007's retroactive 247Sports Composite.

Charles:"If you look at the way recruiting rankings have changed, I know everybody kind of has their own opinion on this, but pretty objectively theyve gotten a lot better over the years theres more information and everybodys getting smarter of it. Back then, when youre talking about the early days of video, you might be ranking a guy off a highlight. You dont have the sample size you do now.

"Running back, historically, is an easy position to rank. Those guys, the crossover from high school to college, the jump is not as extreme. Theres not as steep of a learning curve. Its definitely something where weve progressed as an industry."

Trey:"A scouting report on one of the recruiting services said he had the best balance since Barry Sanders. Charles, I would imagine looking back now, you would not allow Devine to be ranked anywhere near No. 13? What context clues would have made you [hesitate?]"

Charles:"Starting off with what he does really well, he had great acceleration. Top-speed quick. I think he ran a 4.26 coming out of West Virginia. The balance was outstanding, he was really tough, could change directions in tight quarters.

"But looking at him, if I were to go watch his video and look at it as a blank slate and just imagine that he was a class of 2020 prospect, I dont think he stacks up as well as a guy like Devon Achane, who signed with Texas A&M this year. We had him No. 54 but he wasnt in the 5-star conversation. Really good running back who I think were significantly higher on than the industry, but he had legit track times, better production, kind of a more versatile high player.

"One thing with Devine, he was tiny. He was listed at 5-8, 175. I think 175 would be very generous considering he was 180 coming out of college four years later. He wasnt able to put on a ton of weight. Ive heard some schools thought he was in the 150s when he was being recruited. And when youer dealing with a speed, all-purpose, smaller back, catching the ball is paramount for sure and he never really had a ton of production as a receiver [in high school].

"One other thing: For as hard as he was to tackle, a lot of his stuff was power-based. He was a little bit tight as a runner. If youre comparing him to Reggie Bush, theres really no comparison in how loose Reggie Bush was in the open field. Devine was a little upright.

"Devine catching that post-Reggie Bush YouTube zeitgeist had a pretty significant role in that hype and fanfare he got."

Trey:"So watching this video 14 years later, maybe its because Im jaded or because I know what happened with Noel, but Im like kind of Meh? Alright, hes reversing field, hes breaking a few tackles. Ive seen this stuff.

"But in 2006, it felt just like Reggie Bush! You know the famous Reggie Bush play against Fresno State. He stops on a dime on the sideline and youve got the USC coach behind him, windmilling his arms. They literally invented that move in the NCAA Football video game after that, the back move on the joystick.

"You watch it now. The quality of it, its Zapruder."

Charles:"Its got a sasquatch-in-the woods quality, for sure."

Trey:"Also I think recruiting in the mid-2000s, a lot of it was about the film and the footage. I think its moved to a scoop thing, where you guys, the experts, invest the time in the film, and the fans now want to know the scoop or the word on this players projection at the next level. But back then, I would just devour every single video possible of [every Texas] signee. And Noel Devines video was better than anybodys I had ever seen."


Trey:"West Virginia had some dudes! Hes on this 2007 team that famously lost to Pitt and blew its shot to play for a BCS Championship, but hes on that West Virginia team as a freshman with Pat White and Steve Slaton and he started off really well. If Noel Devine was playing now, he would have gone pro after three years. He didnt, his career fizzles out after his senior year (injury), and he goes undrafted.

"Do you have any recollections of Noel in college? Like me, I assume you were really excited to watch him."

Charles: I" do, for sure. Those West Virginia teams were a whole lot of fun with Rich Rodriguez. Noels recruitment was definitely up-and-down, he had that deal with Deion Sanders (link) his recruitment probably didnt match up with how touted he was.

"Its not completely dissimilar from Zach Evans recruitment."

Trey:"I knew youd say that."

Charles:"It just didnt match up with the perceived talent at the time. But I was excited to see him at West Virginia, that was a great scheme fit with Rodriguez running the zone-read. I tried to watch as many of those games as I could back then.

"One thing Id take away from this: Noel Devine might not have always had the most translatable plays, but his video was always among the most fun. And I think we need to draw the line where the most fun doesnt always equal the best. But when he was healthy and going at West Virginia, it wasnt like he was a bust from a talent perspective. His expectations were sky-high and almost impossible to meet."

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A conversation about the experience that was Noel Devine - 247Sports

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