Defensive end Irvin's talent intrigues WVU
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. It doesn't take long to notice West Virginia's new defensive end Bruce Irvin. At least, it didn't during the Mountaineers' first fall scrimmage Saturday.

On his first two plays, both third downs, Irvin overpowered starting right tackle Jeff Braun and sacked the quarterback.

That's exactly what the former Mt. San Antonio Community College (Calif.) standout is expected to do in 2010 for WVU.

"I have a lot of raw abilities," Irvin said. "I just need to work on them."

Irvin, who is originally from Atlanta, was actually recruited as a wide receiver out of high school. He had offers from Tennessee and North Carolina, among others, but admits he "didn't have the grades." He decided to go to Mt. San Antonio CC, and made the transition from wide receiver to free safety. When he arrived late to the team's camp, the coaches told him it would be easier to play defensive end.

The position change allowed Irvin to flourish in the junior college ranks as a pure pass rusher. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive force was the sixth-ranked junior college player in the country last year.

"And with my speed, it made it much easier," Irvin said. "I guess it was the right fit."

Irvin, who knew WVU wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway personally, kept in touch with the coach and eventually decided to come to play for the Mountaineers.

"I know how blessed I am to have another opportunity to do what I love to do," Irvin said. "You can't really dwell on the past, but I think that's why I take life more seriously now."

Head coach Bill Stewart said Irvin will make an impact on this year's defense.

"You want to get a playmaker on the field. What would be the purpose of bringing him in here and not putting him out on the field?" Stewart said. "You have to look at the intangibles does he work, hustle and do the right things? He's doing all of that, so we're going to find a spot for him. We have to."

While he's undersized for a traditional defensive end in West Virginia's 3-3-5 scheme, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said Irvin will be used in the Mountaineers' "40" package, a four-man front defense WVU will use in passing situations in 2010.

"Obviously, he's going to get an opportunity to get his hand in the dirt and go after the quarterback on third down," Casteel said. "Those are the things that we are evaluating right now."

Starting defensive end Julian Miller plays to the inside of Irvin in the "40" defense. Miller said Irvin has been quick to learn the defensive package.

"He has an extremely great motor," Miller said.

Offensive line coach Dave Johnson, who coached at Georgia before coming to WVU, said Irvin reminds him of some of the rush ends Johnson saw while coaching in the SEC.

"He makes us better. He makes us step up our game," Johnson said.

Starting left tackle Don Barclay said he likes working against Irvin in practice because it allows him to better prepare for opponents with quicker defensive ends.

"He's a great rusher. You face a lot of teams now, and that's all they have are speed guys, so I'm going to need to see that," he said. "If I can block him, I can block anybody."