WVU's Isaiah Bruce Preps for First Start - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU's Isaiah Bruce Preps for First Start


When Dana Holgorsen casually stated that redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce would start for his defense this weekend, it was the first time the linebacker had heard the news.

That isn't to say that Bruce was surprised by his head coach's words; he simply had never heard them, whether from Holgorsen or any of the assistants.

"I haven't gone with the twos since I don't know when. I'm constantly going with the ones," says Bruce.

Entering his second fall camp with the Mountaineers, the Jacksonville, Fla. native was taking some reps with the starters and some with the second team, but as the season opener came closer, he has seen the first team become his permanent home.

His progress to this point is precisely what he expected, what he demanded, of himself. With his sights set on the top Sam linebacker role, Bruce took advantage of a mostly new defensive staff with no preconceived notions of what to expect from their personnel.

"After last year and being redshirted, it was a goal for me to start," says Bruce. "Definitely have a lot of playing time, but my height was to start and to make plays and just help the team in any way I can."

The desire to get on the field a season ago certainly helped fuel Bruce's offseason and the work ethic he brought to everyday, but he admits now that he wasn't ready to play as a true freshman even if he thought he may have been at the time.

In addition to other traits that hadn't stood out the coaches in year one, Bruce was too small.

"I was about 205 [pounds] and me coming in thinking I was going to hit people that were 320 [pounds], yeah, that wasn't going to work," Bruce says, laughing.

With the new scheme that defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have brought to WVU this season, Bruce feels that his abilities are better highlighted.

No longer is he asked to come up and clash with those big linemen to the extent that he did in the 3-3-5. But when he does, he has an idea of how a meeting with a 320-pound giant will end up.

"Me not on the ground," he says with a smile.

Bruce believes at this point that he and the rest of the middle linebackers have similar attributes and that what brought him over the competition at his spot was the way he executed in certain situations.

But a few of his offensive teammates have seen a little something extra from the 6-foot-1, 225-pound defender that has him currently slated ahead of junior Doug Rigg on the depth chart.

"He's very, very athletic. Super athletic," says senior running back Shawne Alston. "He has safety speed, but he's still able to come up in the box and stop the run. I think he's going to be a very good player. He's only a redshirt freshman, so by the time he gets to his junior, senior year, he'll be a very good player."

Thinking ahead is the exact opposite of what Bruce intends to do at this point. He got to where he is by taking each play one at a time, not focusing on what was next and never dwelling on what had just taken place.

That mentality must remain for him to maintain his grasp on his current position alongside 10 other defensive starters.

"You think about the present play that you're doing right now," Bruce says. "Before the ball's snapped and what you have to do, react when the ball's snapped, make a good play and then play the next play."

If he continues to play in the moment in practices on Wednesday and Thursday, Bruce will have the chance to prove himself in an actual game for the first time in his college career on Saturday.

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