Lost in the dazzling performance of a debuting quarterback and a heartbreaking loss Monday night in Georgia Tech’s season opener, Shamire Devine reminded everyone why he once stood as a coveted recruit.
Now in his fifth year on the Flats, Devine’s career has been mostly inconsistent -- filled with stretches of productive play supported by a starting role and other stints that put him on the bench, including the final six games of the 2016 season.
With Devine, a Yellow Jackets offensive lineman, placed as a reserve for much of the Jackets’ strong finish last year, he became somewhat of an afterthought on a solid offensive line returning in 2017. The majority of his playing time figured to be in a backup role or as situational snaps. But with an injury to Andrew Marshall weakening the depth of the line and causing shifts for in-game substitutions, Devine quickly found himself in meaningful action against Tennessee. He didn’t disappoint.
“Overall, I was proud of Shamire,” Paul Johnson said of the senior’s performance. “He played a lot of plays, more than I thought he could’ve. So I give him credit and the whole group.”
Johnson’s tone rung as high praise for someone who has disappointed at times in the past. His play apparently impressed enough to potentially warrant a move back into a starting role.
“Possibly, but they’re all going to play,” Johnson said about Devine starting. “We’ll decide that (Thursday) some time. … It’s possible. But it really doesn’t matter the way we roll with six or seven, but we may roll with a few more this week because of the number of plays they played.”
Part of Devine’s surprising number of snaps and productivity could be attributed to his increased conditioning -- an aspect he’s struggled with in the past. With his weight increasing close to 400 pounds at one point, Devine has constantly battled to keep that number down, which would result in a better chance at staying on the field. Over the offseason, he put in the most effort he has yet, and it showed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“No, I worked pretty hard over the summer,” Devine said when asked if he was surprised at how good he felt on the field. “I went out of state to do some extra work, came back and did more work … in camp did extra work. It felt normal to me.”
Devine’s conditioning included going to Tennessee to work with family and friends on a type of training that the 6-foot-7 guard is not accustomed to as an Atlanta native … something he called, “forest conditioning.”
“We did a bunch of forest conditioning. … I’ve never been in a forest in my life,” he said. “We’re going up lakes and mountains and stuff. It’s good because you get out there and get to breathe, but then you want to hurry back so you don’t get bit up by snakes and mosquitoes, so that’s good conditioning. Then I came back (to Atlanta), and I was in the weight room. After we got done working out in the morning, I came back in the afternoon … climbed Stone Mountain … Kennesaw (Mountain). I did as much as I possibly could.”
Devine said he climbed Stone Mountain about five times, but joked that he rode the gondola down. The work seemed to pay off. After his performance Monday, Pro Football Focus placed him on its national team of the week with a grade of 91.3 -- a pleasant surprise for a player who didn’t even start. Devine didn’t expect the amount of playing time he received.
“No, I did not,” he said. “I expected to go in and play as hard as I can to prove to the coaches I can get that many reps, which I hope I did.”
When asked if his performance Monday was the best of his career, he placed it in the top three, with Florida State and the Orange Bowl in 2014.
As someone who benefitted from his blocking, B-back KirVonte Benson praised Devine. In Benson’s first career start he finished with 124 rushing yards on 26 carries. Numerous Benson carries went behind Devine on the belly option play that Tech ran heavily.
“It was a good feeling, you know,” Benson said about running behind Devine. “Shamire is a great blocker, especially when he’s tuned in and focused. … He’s a force to be reckoned with. He can move with the best of them, so hopefully he’ll have that same type of intensity when we go into this game.”
Benson’s comments highlight part of the past issues with Devine on the field - consistency and focus not to let the productive play come only in stretches. This time, though, with a level of conditioning and an attitude that he hadn’t shown yet, Devine insists it’s here to stay. And he’s bringing his new quarterback along with him.
“Yes, I’m about to take the torch and I’m torching everyone in my way,” Devine said. “We had the torch in the huddle. (Quarterback TaQuon Marshall) was putting gas on it, and I sort of smacked him and told him just dump the whole can on it and let’s go. I loved the way he steered the ship. Part of the ship, part of the crew.”