MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- There are times when Shawne Alston isn't barreling over defenders and pushing back blitzes that the West Virginia running back thinks about what could have been for him, for the Hampton Roads and for Mountaineer football.
Alston played running back in high school at Virginia's Phoebus High. His quarterback was Tajh Boyd, who started for No. 14 Clemson in Wednesday night's Orange Bowl and opposed No. 23 WVU at Sun Life Stadium.
Their teammate was Dominik Davenport. Their friend was receiver Logan Heastie, a star at Chesapeake, Va.'s Great Bridge High.
The four were supposed to go to WVU and map a path for others in the area to follow - and seeing as if Phoebus has won four straight Virginia Division 5 state championships and seven in 11 years, the Phantoms would have been a key to the pipeline from the talent-rich region.
"I think about it all the time," said Alston, a junior who started the Orange Bowl after rushing for 10 touchdowns in the regular season for the Mountaineers. "I thought it was going to be huge for us. "We had a great chance to be successful on the field here and off the field, too. The sky would have been the limit."
That group never reached any of its potential.
Boyd de-committed. Davenport and Heastie left after redshirting their freshman seasons.
Even Alston's development has been staggered because of a neck injury he suffered in a car accident last winter and the WVU offseason coaching transition from Bill Stewart to Dana Holgorsen.
While Boyd and Alston have played, Heastie has not and Davenport has been to three schools before settling at NAIA Virginia University of Lynchburg this season.
The Mountaineers have signed no players from Hampton Roads since then, and the assistant coach who knew the area, Chris Beatty, was replaced in the offseason and is now at Vanderbilt. The only players from southern Virginia who have signed with WVU the past two years are offensive lineman Quinton Spain (Petersburg), running back Trey Johnson (Richmond), who is no longer with the team, and offensive lineman Marquis Wallace (Richmond), who never enrolled.
"I'll never know how much my decision not to come to West Virginia deterred Logan or my high school teammates or other guys from down there, but it's something I really wonder about all the time," Boyd said. "I think about how things would have worked out and how the scenario would have went. I know we would have been great."
The odd part about this is while Alston and Boyd and others do think about it, no one frets or has regrets.
Boyd is in a Clemson system that fits his talents and surrounds him with elite skill players. The Mountaineers replaced Boyd in the 2009 recruiting class with Geno Smith. He played for Miramar High, not far from where the team practiced here, but Smith was only pursued by WVU after Boyd changed his mind.
Former WVU assistant and recruiting chief and current Marshall Coach Doc Holliday visited Smith soon thereafter and not long after Smith visited Alabama a year before the Crimson Tide won the BCS national championship.
"I'm not one of those guys who gets caught up in the lights," Smith said.
"My trip to Alabama was tremendous and I developed a good relationship with (Coach) Nick Saban and they pretty much threw every trick at me.