CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This is a column about Devante.Not Devonte.Nor Davonte.It is about WVU football commitment Devante Averette.As close followers of Mountaineer football know, if your name is Devonte-ish there's a good chance you'll be recruited by Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen and staff.Devonte Mathis is a current wide receiver. Davonte James is a three-star linebacker commitment for 2014 from Springfield, Ohio.But Devante Averette, also a three-star linebacker, appears to be one to watch as the football season progresses.Think not?Well, last week the Ellsworth Community College player had 19 tackles (13 solo with six assists). He had 81/2 tackles for a loss. He was named the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference's defensive player of the week.Does that get your attention?"Devante's a good one," ECC coach Josh Lattimer said Thursday. "He's a kid from Melvindale, Mich., a Detroit suburb, who is a linebacker for us, but was a rush end and running back in high school."I watched film on him, saw explosiveness and great feet and wanted him with us. He was all-conference last year and has become a defensive leader."On ECC's website Lattimer calls Averette a "force of nature" who brings "a high level of energy to the field."Indeed, the linebacker is one to watch. He received a mixed bag of offers before giving WVU his word. Schools like Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State offered. Minnesota and Arkansas sniffed around, but didn't put down an offer. Then again, Big 12 schools WVU, Oklahoma State and Iowa State did pull the trigger."He wanted to make the decision before the season," Lattimer said.
Ellsworth certainly has a decent junior college program. It is 1-2 this season, but finished No. 19 in last season's final National Junior College Athletic Association poll.At the end of last season's campaign, the Panthers played the opener of the Graphic Edge Bowl games. The nightcap of that was for the NJCAA championship against Louisburg. (In that, Maryland receiver Deon Long, then playing for Iowa Western, had 14 catches for 136 yards and became the first NJCAA wideout in history to record more than 100 catches in a season. WVU running back Dreamius Smith, then with Butler, missed the game because of injury.)Anyway, Ellsworth was kind of painted in a corner in its bowl game. But Averette came to the rescue."We only had 38 total players," Lattimer said. "We had four defensive backs and one of our safeties got hurt. We were playing cover-3 and man. Well, in certain sets we put Devante on [Louisburg's] No. 1 [receiving] threat. He has just enough [muscle] twitch that he can do that. He can walk out and play corner."Lattimer said WVU projects Averette as an outside linebacker."[Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson] likes what Devante can do off the edge," said the ECC coach. "Plus, in the box, he's instinctive. He can read blocking schemes up front."
Speed, said Lattimer, is key to his 6-foot, 232-pound linebacker.
"He can run," said the coach. "I've never timed him, but I'd say he runs a mid-4.4 or 4.5 [-second] 40-yard dash. Plus, he has great instincts, plays hard and is super aggressive."And there's a bonus for WVU."He's a leader on defense for us - and a leader on campus," Lattimer said. "He's been named a [resident assistant], which is a pretty big deal here. You have to wear a suit and tie and go through an interview process, just like a job."He's a pretty special kid. He has a 2 1/2-year old son back home. But he knows he has to do this [junior college route] to take care of his son. That motivates Devante. He's busted his butt to graduate in 18 months."Averette will have two years of eligibility at WVU with the option to redshirt one.nn
Kudos to WVU athletic director Oliver Luck for his work in reviving regional rivalries for his school's football team.Yes, the signed contracts between WVU, Virginia Tech and Penn State are considerably down the road. But Mountaineer fans have to like what Luck has done.In the four years from 2021 to 2024, West Virginia will play regional rivals again. The Mountaineers will host Virginia Tech in 2021, visit Blacksburg in 2022, visit State College, Pa., in 2023, and host Penn State in 2024."It was just a matter of picking up the phone," Luck said on Thursday. "All the other schools are thinking the same way we are. They're very willing to talk about putting these series together."Luck spoke about the flavor of the regional series. He spoke of the desire to upgrade schedules in light of upcoming playoffs. He spoke of scheduling holdups within the ACC because of Notre Dame's relationship to the conference.And he confirmed ongoing talks with Pitt and Virginia. There have been none, though, with Ohio State, he said. nn
And finally . . .WVU Tech is seeking a new athletic director. The news that Frank Pergolizzi has resigned is just now resonating.But the names of potential candidates are already popping, and the name that makes the most sense among those being discussed is Bryce Casto.The former football coach - his South Charleston team won the 1994 Class AAA championship - was the athletic director at West Virginia State before moving up to school vice president. When the school hired a new president, though, Casto was replaced. He's been helping Nitro head coach Derek Midkiff as an assistant.Casto, though, would be a great fit at Tech. He's very well respected and if anyone can straighten out the mess that's Tech athletics, it's Casto.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.