With every Mountaineer fan waiting anxiously to see if he returned for his senior season, junior running back Noel Devine explained the decision was really a very easy one to make.
"Unfinished business," said West Virginia's top rusher this past season. "In the classroom and on the football field. There is still a lot of things I want to accomplish before I leave WVU and one of those is to bring a national championship back to the school."
Following West Virginia's loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl, speculation began building around whether or not the first-team all-Big East running back would return to the Mountain State along with fellow Floridian Jock Sanders.
"I told my family that I wanted to get my degree," added Devine. "And, there is something special about being a senior here at West Virginia that I wanted to experience."
Devine was one of 18 Mountaineer players in attendance at Thursday night's 14th annual Steak & Burger Dinner sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg. For the third time the event, which raises thousands of dollars which are utilized to run the dozens of projects at the facility, at the Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna.
Also in attendance was former-Parkersburg South standout Cody Nutter as well as former-Big Reds Josh Jenkins and Matt Lindamood.
"It's great to be back in town," said Jenkins. "I always enjoy helping Mr. Flanagan out with this. It's great to see all the kids here and see some of the people I grew up knowing."
But, the Mountain State's only two-time winner of the Hunt Award-given annually to the state's top offensive lineman-echoed the feelings of his star running back.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us this spring," said Jenkins, who started all 13 games in his second season with the old gold and blue. "The biggest thing we (the offensive line) have got to improve on is our communication on the field."
West Virginia posted a 9-4 overall record for the 2009 season and finished 5-2 in Big East play to finish second behind two-time champion Cincinnati.
"We know we can be good enough to win it (the Big East) next year," said Devine. "And, if we can win it, there is no reason why we can't win all of our games."
The Mountaineers will have some big holes to fill during the off-season with the loss of seniors Jarrett Brown (quarterback), Alric Arnett (receiver), Selvish Capers (offensive tackle), and Reed Williams (linebacker). But, the players in attendance for Thursday night's event all believe the talent is in Morgantown to accomplish that feat.
"We all believe we have the people on the team right now," said Devine. "We'll spend this spring getting those players in position and then our summer workouts will allow us to work with them on our own before we start for real in August."
The majority of that talent will come from five true freshmen who saw action during the season-Geno Smith (QB), Tavon Austin (WR), Shawne Alston (RB) and defensive backs Terrence Garvin and Pat Miller.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org