Isaiah Bruce Taking on Leadership Role for WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Isaiah Bruce Taking on Leadership Role for WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

Isaiah Bruce worked with West Virginia linebackers coach Keith Patterson every day last season, proving himself in practice to get a chance on game day.

Bruce, now a sophomore, watches as his position coach a year ago continues the transition to becoming the sole defensive coordinator, something that is not new to the veteran assistant. But for the linebackers who worked with him each day, there have been subtle changes with Patterson's added responsibilities.

"He's definitely more vocal than last year," says Bruce. "I take it as a coaching experience. I feel like he's helping me if he's yelling at me or congratulating me or whatever. He thinks about it the same way. He usually doesn't stick on you about one play when three plays have passed. He's all about playing the next play and getting better."

Patterson said tends to get on his players more when things are going well and ease off a bit when they aren't. If that same philosophy works on an individual basis, Bruce may be one of those players getting a real earful after the success he had as a redshirt freshman.

Heading into the season, his named popped up in conversations with Patterson, but it wasn't until he actually stepped on the field in game one that we had the chance to see what Bruce was truly capable of.

For much of his rookie debut, he led the Mountaineers in tackles, ultimately finishing second on the team with 94 for the year, while adding two fumble recoveries and a touchdown return. His production and the fact that he started each of WVU's 13 games led to Bruce's teammates viewing him as a leader in the meeting room and on the field, a role he knows he must now embrace.

"I felt last year like I was learning from the older guys and the year before that, but I definitely think I have taken a leadership role, so I'm going to try to pursue that and work better and just push everybody to be better on the defense," Bruce says.

The Jacksonville, Fla. native was not alone in getting thrown into the fire a bit with the extent to which he was counted on when he took the field. He may have had the starting role, but other young players wound up getting into the rotation and learning Division-I football the hard way.

The results showed in a poor defensive effort throughout the season, but the hope on that side of the ball is that even if it wasn't always successful, just getting that year playing the game will go a long way toward fielding an improved unit.

"The experience for the younger people coming in was great, especially going into next year," says Bruce. "So it won't be like they're just getting out there for the first time, not knowing how the speed is, not knowing what to expect. That was definitely a plus."

Bruce believes that getting those players to work together is the biggest step his defense will have to take to buck the trends it fell into last year. The coaching staff as a whole has stressed the importance of being a team rather than a collection of individuals.

"Patterson made a huge emphasis on team and one unit and as we look at the film and last year's games, the few games that we lost or if we gave up a touchdown or something, it was because one person messed up or wasn't in the right spot or not doing their job. If you're not playing as a whole 11, then you're probably going to get scored on," says Bruce.

Spring practice resumes on Tuesday evening in Morgantown with the Mountaineers getting back on the field to continue work toward an improved product in the coming year from what Bruce and his teammates were able to deliver in 2012. 

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