Shamire Devine’s critical role in Georgia Tech’s season

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Georgia Tech guard Shamire Devine is being counted on to play a lot of snaps this fall. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson couldn’t have stated it more clearly last week.

“Shamire, he’s got to play,” Johnson said. “He’s got to be the guy.”

Shamire Devine, the rising junior guard, is under the spotlight, whether he wants it or not. With Chris Griffin and Jake Whitley facing uncertainty whether they can continue playing, the Yellow Jackets’ options at guard look like Will Bryan, Brad and Scott Morgan and Devine, at least until the incoming freshmen arrive.

Bryan, moved to left guard last week from tackle, is evidently staying.

“Will’s doing good,” Johnson said. “I think that’s a good move. I think that’s going to help us. That’s probably where he’ll start this year.”

That leaves the other starting spot likely to be determined by the two Morgan twins – one of whom, Scott, just moved from defense last week – and Devine. Johnson has liked what he has seen out of both of the Morgans.

“You can’t question their want-to and their physicality,” Johnson said. “They’re both physical kids and they want to do it. It’s just going to take some time.”

That said, neither has played a snap of college football while Devine started nine games last season after playing 13 games as a backup in 2014. That season, Johnson said that “he’s got all the tools to be a really good player” and “he can be next-level good if he’s willing to work at it.”

If he can play a lot of snaps this fall, it will have a significant impact on the Jackets’ chances for a successful season. At his best, he is remarkably agile for his size and a punishing blocker. But if he can’t, Tech may have to depend on Bryan, a sophomore, and two freshmen. It’s why Johnson was so emphatic on Devine having to play.

Those who follow Tech football know that Devine’s weight has been an issue since his arrival and has limited his ability to play for long stretches. The combination of the thinning depth at guard and an increase in Devine’s weight going into the spring brought it even more to the forefront.

It’s a strange thing to write about, as a person’s weight is often a very personal and private matter. I think I understand that, in this case, it’s fair game to ask and write about. Devine is a major-college football player and his weight is a factor in his performance and the team’s success. To his credit, Devine has been accommodating when I’ve asked about it.

But at the same time, he’s a college student who has trouble keeping his weight down, and I can imagine that’s a challenge he’d prefer he could keep to himself. (I recognize my rather central role in preventing this from happening.) To me, it’s a bit different than asking or writing about someone’s rehabilitation from an injury, for instance. Drawing conclusions is an even grayer area.

Former Tech guard Trey Braun, who played with Devine for three seasons, declined to speak specifically about his former teammate, but made the observation that weight loss “is totally different for every person” and that it’s not always the case that failure to lose weight isn’t a matter of lacking sufficient discipline.

“Whenever I see other people who aren’t losing weight, I always try to remember, it’s not because they aren’t as disciplined, or it’s not necessarily they aren’t as disciplined,” Braun said. “I can’t begin to understand what goes on with them. Instead of trying to tear them down or trying to break them down, I always come from a place of building them up. Whatever it is that you need, which only you can determine, I’m going to try to help you with that.”

Johnson’s most recent update on Devine’s weight was that he had lost 10 pounds. Devine’s weight was updated to 386. It was listed at 366 last season.

“He’s working on it,” Johnson said. “He’s coming down.”

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