BOGACZYK: Devers Brings More than Strength to Right Guard
The Word on the Herd-Aug. 9, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal regularly refers to players using “old eyes” to make an impact on his unit.
There can be exceptions, however. And in considering Herd right guard Nate Devers, maybe the best way to put the Ohioan into some kelly green perspective is to say he has a chance to do what Chris Jasperse did from 2011-14.
Jasperse went from redshirted freshman to an every-game starter who played more than 4,000 career snaps. He’s now an undrafted rookie in the Cincinnati Bengals’ camp.
Devers, redshirted last season, began the Herd’s 2015 August camp as the starter at right guard, and he got a pre-camp shout-out from Coach Doc Holliday as “the strongest guy on the team.”
Mirabal said Devers (pronounced DEE-vurs) brings much more than brawn to a position manned last season by Michael Selby, who has slid left one spot to the center position Jasperse owned.
“Nate’s made unbelievable progress and he’s tough as can be,” Mirabal said after the Herd’s Sunday morning workout. “He’s strong as can be, too -- 485 bench press, 31 reps in the pro bench (225 pounds on the bar), the most on the team. So, he’s strong can be, tough as heck, and he’s also intelligent (a pre-chemistry major at MU), and that’s a great combination to have.
“What he does … is when stuff moves, he moves with it. He doesn’t get paralyzed when stuff moves. He doesn’t stop. He continues to move and it’s innate for him, where the guy that he’s on moves to his right, then Nate knows exactly where the other guy to replace him is going. So, he plays with a lot more experience than what he actually has.”
It helps -- Devers and Mirabal agree – to be able to play between Selby and veteran All-Conference USA right tackle Clint Van Horn. However, the third-year Herd line coach said the 6-foot-2, 289-pound Devers brought a lot with him from high school – the nationally recognized Massillon Washington High football program whose famous football alumni include Paul Brown, Don James, Harry Stuhldreher, Chris Spielman, Shawn Crable and Earle Bruce.
“That definitely helped a lot because my coaches had played in college and had been coaching awhile and I had a coach that played in the NFL, too,” Devers said. “All that stuff helped. It got me really prepared for college. It really helped me learn to listen and pick up on techniques Coach Mirabal is teaching.”
Nate “obviously was well-coached in a well-established, successful program at Massillon,” Mirabal said. “Massillon has two offensive line coaches. So, he’s got that, and then those older guys last year -- Selby, Jasperse, Swede (guard Sebastian Johansson), Clint -- really took Nate under their wings and guided him on how to prepare from a mental standpoint and physical standpoint. That’s what stands out about him.”
Devers said he also was tutored in line play by Andy Alleman, a volunteer assistant Massillon and former Pitt and Akron lineman who was a third-round NFL Draft pick by New Orleans and played three seasons (2007-09) for the Saints, Miami and Kansas City.
He also has learned to be versatile. Devers played left tackle for two high school seasons at Southeast Local in Apple Creek, Ohio, before transferring to Massillon, an hour drive away and where his father worked. As a Tigers’ junior, he played strongside guard – “both sides,” he said – and then center as a senior.
Devers was committed to Cincinnati until about 72 hours before Signing Day in February 2014, when he flipped to the Herd. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg was Devers’ main recruiter for MU. Devers then was the first player in the recruiting class to fax his National Letter of Intent to the Shewey Building football offices.
After playing football since the third grade, Devers called his redshirt season away from game competition “a little bit of a weird feeling, but I knew it was best for me. I was undersized, wasn’t experienced enough on the calls on offense. I was 264 pounds, and today I weighed 289.”
He arrived at Marshall while bouncing back from a torn labrum in his left shoulder in his senior year at Massillon – his second surgery on that shoulder. Prior to his senior year as Massillon, he did 26 reps in the pro bench – so he’s added five to share the Herd 2015 summer training lead with Johansson. Devers’ bench press of 485 tops the Herd by 40 pounds.
His strength and toughness are underscored with a confidence that has been honed by his flanking line mates, Van Horn and Selby.
“It definitely boosts my confidence a lot because I know I can trust them,” Devers said. “Really, trusting them is not an issue, but I need to gain their trust. It helps a lot playing next to them to see not only what they do, but how they carry themselves, how to be a better player, work hard, how to carry out everything.
“They’re making the calls. Clint makes the calls for me and Selby makes the calls for the line and the interior things. I listen to what they say and don’t doubt it. Any call they make, I’m not going to question it.
“I’m going to do exactly what they say and Coach Mirabal says Selby’s never wrong on the field. If we get into the film room and Selby is wrong, Coach Mirabal corrects it. But on the field, Selby is the man. A lot of it is just play hard. If something moves, you move. React to it; don’t freeze up.” Mirabal said Devers’ pedigree is one thing; his performance is another.
“It’s easy to block stuff when it’s static,” Mirabal said. “But when stuff moves, that’s when you really find out how much of a natural football player he is. When stuff moves, he just moves with it naturally. He doesn’t have to be taught every single thing, which is good, because I don’t have enough time in the day, enough players, to set up every single scenario they’re going to see. So, you hope that a guy has a lot innate and he does.
“Playing between Clint and Mike Selby, it’s awesome for him and us because Nate doesn’t have to say anything. Van Horn and Selby are telling him exactly who we’re blocking to, who our combination is coming to, so it’s not Nate’s time yet. It will be his time when Van Horn leaves, when Selby leaves. “Clint has all the calling authority, not Nate. On the other side, Swede has all the calling authority for (sophomore left tackle) Sandley Jean-Felix.
“It’s not based on what position they play, but based on experience, who’s more vocal. Nate Devers should be able to close his eyes and know exactly where to go.
“It’s innate for Nate.”