Bruce Uses Attitude, Energy to Find Success - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Bruce Uses Attitude, Energy to Find Success

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MORGANTOWN -

Isaiah Bruce made quite a splash in his college football debut.

The redshirt freshman had clearly earned the respect and confidence of his coaching staff and his teammates heading into his first career start, but that doesn't mean that everything he showed in practice would translate to the actual game when it counted.

Yet for Bruce, in week one, that is precisely what happened.

"What I envisioned was just to make a play. Just do my job and make plays," Bruce says of his expectations heading into the Marshall game. "What happened was… Well, making plays happened, so I guess everything went according to plan."

Finishing his first action with a game-high 16 tackles and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, Bruce was named the top defender in the Big 12 conference. Despite that, his coach still found room for improvement when reviewing the tape.

"He should have had 21 tackles," WVU co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson says flatly. "He had five missed tackles and still had 16. That'd have been a pretty good start, but he'll tell you I'm on him daily about his tackling."

The issues Patterson has with Bruce's tackles are the sort of problems other coaches wish they had. In short, the linebacker coach believes that his student could stand to reel in his aggression on the field.

"Sometimes he's out of control because he practices so hard and I think that has a lot to do with his missed tackles," Patterson says. "He's giving such great effort, but he takes himself out of position to finish the play and make plays."

And really, Coach, is that such a bad thing?

"You'd rather say ‘whoa' than ‘go,'" Patterson replies.

Bruce's energy in practice and through one game on the field has him quadrupling the closest Mountaineer linebacker in the tackles column.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said that energy was evident from the first quarter until the game was over. When he looked back on film, there were other players on the team who fell victim to the heat and humidity as the day wore on, but Bruce appeared to have the same speed and effort in the closing minutes as he had when the ball was kicked off.

Whether it was the excitement of the first game or simply the way Bruce plays, it was a pleasant sight for the coaches to behold. The onus now falls on Bruce to continue to show that drive through the remaining 12 games of the season.

"It's not like he's going to be on the Butkus Award watch list or anything. He's still got a lot of improvement and he'll tell you he has a lot of improvement," says Patterson. "As long as you keep being coachable and doing the things that I'm asking you to do, you'll continue to improve as a player. He definitely has the right attitude and mindset to do that."

Being coachable is never something Bruce has had to deal with. He listens to his coaches, sure, but he also prods them with questions so that he can have a better understanding of his role and of the game itself. He does not shy away from admitting that he needs more information when something may not make total sense to him on the field or in the meeting room.

"He's a smart kid," says Holgorsen. "When the referees were in here going over all of the rules he raised his hand three or four times and was asking questions. He's a smart kid, his conditioning is good and it was a pleasant surprise."

Patterson says it's a mentality he demands of his players. He tells them that simply coming to practice and sitting through a 45-minute meeting will not cut it. They must volunteer their own time toward the craft of football in order to succeed the way they believe they are capable of.

In his first year with Bruce, those traits have been evident.

"Everyday, he brings the same attitude, the same effort that it takes to be a great player," says Patterson. "He's not moody, he just studies it, he wants to get better and it's all about his attitude."

With the first game behind him, Bruce can go forward into the rest of his redshirt freshman season with the confidence that the work he's put in has paid off.

But one game is no indication of what the remaining schedule will hold and for Bruce, the challenge of an encore awaits.

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