The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

June 10, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Bruce Irvin enjoys ‘marked man’ label

MORGANTOWN — Last fall, back when football was football and the drama was in who would win and who would lose, Bruce Irvin emerged as a budding national star, chasing after harried quarterbacks the way a lion chases an eland in the wild.

Who knew Irvin really had very little idea how to play the game?

Irvin came to West Virginia University out of nowhere, possessing signature dreadlocks over a body that was covered with tattoos. He has a long face with exaggerated features and a pair of eyes that can be piercing at his most serious or bubbling with his easy laugh.

He was something of a mystery man when he arrived in mid-summer, 2010, having come from a California junior college named Mt. San Antonio.

He had grown up in Stone Mountain, Ga., but felt he needed to escape the negative influences of the area that were acting like magnets as they tried to draw him in. While he doesn’t speak in specifics, he lets you know that he was not exactly an angel.

He was a wide receiver in high school but needed to get his academics in order if he was going to play college football, so he went off to Mt. San Antonio where he helped them to a 13-1 record and a national championship as a linebacker.

His speed and quickness were legendary, 16 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, 21 tackles for losses.

If only he knew how to play football.

“I didn’t learn anything about football in junior college,” he said. “We didn’t even lift weights. No weights, no film.”

They just turned him loose.

“It’s junior college. You are playing football to have fun. Here? You better get right or you get left,” he said.

His late arrival last summer meant that he really didn’t learn much here during his first year.

“Last year, I didn’t even know the calls. I was standing by J.T. (Thomas) in a game, asking ‘What was the call, man?’” he admitted.

That’s why he was a third-down specialist. He wasn’t ready to do much more than rush the quarterback, something that came naturally.

“I didn’t learn a lot during the season. It’s so quick, and you have to prepare for each team. You don’t have time,” he said.

And so it was that was a crucial spring for Irvin as they prepared him to become an every-down player, to know the defenses and to learn the problem techniques, those taught courtesy of defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and more by defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich.

“In the spring, Kirlav and Casteel taught me a lot of useful techniques. Me and Julian (Miller) are really undersized, so he pounded it home, how we have stay low and use our hands right, get skinny so we can squeeze through,” Irvin said.

That he recorded 14 sacks last year while not playing every down certainly makes him a target this year, so he can expect a lot of double teams, while being undersized he knows they will try to run at him, maybe overpowering him and certainly neutralizing the speed he can use to run down plays.

That doesn’t worry him.

“It’s technique,” said this man who a year ago had none. “I’ve got Kirlav teaching us how to take on double blocks. It’s a leverage game. He can’t do nothing if I get under him. I’m driving him like a steering wheel.”

And Irvin knows he’s in the driver’s seat.

“I win some, I lose some, but I guarantee I’ll win more than I lose,” he said.

He understands his presence is going to force teams to do a lot of throwing on three-step drops, which added to double teams, should cut down on his sack totals.

But it also will cut down on how long defensive backs will have to chase receivers and open up Miller to harass quarterbacks.

It is, to put it bluntly, a sack of trouble for opposing offenses.

“Being a marked man is crazy,” he said. “It’s good, but then it’s bad. It’s good because they respect you, but I want to make plays. It’s something I’ll get used to.”

Email Bob Hertzel at

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos