The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 17, 2013

WVU’s Bruce transitions to OLB

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University took another and, quite frankly, surprising step in improving what last year was statistically the worst defense in school history by moving Isaiah Bruce from an inside linebacking spot to the Spur position on the outside.

A year ago, as a redshirt freshman out of Jacksonville, Fla., Bruce played in all 13 games at the Sam position and played well enough to be named honorable mention All-Big 12 by The Associated Press.

He finished with 94 total tackles, which ranked in the top dozen in the Big 12.

Put another way, there were no complaints with his play, even after he went through the spring at Sam along with the first week of preseason camp.

But something was eating away at new defensive coordinator and last year’s and this year’s linebacker coach Keith Patterson.

“I had a gut feeling,” he said.

It was as if he saw Bruce as a competent, capable inside linebacker but a better outside linebacker. A year earlier they didn’t even consider the move because they had Terence Garvin at Spur, a really fine player.

But now, Patterson got to thinking.

“It was a complete evaluation. I watched Isaiah through 12 or 13 games last year. I watched him through spring ball. I watched him through camp, and I just had a gut feeling,” he said.

The idea, after last season’s disaster, was to put the best players on the field.

“It’s a different scheme,” Patterson noted. “We’re constantly evaluating our best players. We’re going to put our best 11 players on the field. I don’t like to be tied in to marrying people to a position. My best 11 this year is with Isaiah outside at Spur and my other guys inside.”

And one of those other guys who now has been moved inside and has a big chance to play there is former Morgantown High star Tyler Anderson. He seems to have benefitted from the change, too.

“He’s physical, big, had his best week of practice,” Patterson of the 244-pound Anderson. “It just made sense to me after evaluating camp. I felt we had guys as good, maybe better, inside, and moving Isaiah outside it clicked for him, and moving Tyler inside it clicked for him, too.”

While both are linebacking positions, they differ greatly and take some adjusting.

“It’s different,” Patterson, a former linebacker himself at East Central Oklahoma, said. “I made the same transition as a player. Your vision is different. You focus on a lot of things inside where, if you move to the outside, you eliminate a lot of things that are happening maybe to your left or to your right.

“It fits him well,” Patterson continued. “When you are inside you can see pretty much the whole formation. When you move to the field, you know there are one or two guys outside of you and you focus down the line of scrimmage and through the triangle that is set up.

“I think it’s easier to key from the outside, plus things don’t get on you as fast as they do inside.”

Certainly, Bruce is not complaining about the move.

“I like it,” he said. “I get to rush a little bit more. I haven’t rushed off the edge since 10th grade. It is a little bit more fun right now, even if we are in camp.”

He admits it is different and that he is still in a learning phase.

“I am just taking it all in,” he said. “There is less traffic on the outside and so much in space. I feel sometimes I am just away from everything, but I need to be a little bit more patient.

“There is less traffic and you do not see everything in front of you, which is not necessarily a bad thing,” he continued. “I definitely have gotten a lot better at being patient and slowing down, waiting for the play to come to me instead of chasing it down.”

Bruce, on the inside, would attack hard, but it is different in his new spot.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • WVU athletic department to form Fan Experience Committee

    The West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is forming a fan experience committee to discuss the needs of Mountaineer fans with the hopes of enhancing the fan experience at its events.

    April 22, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Popovich, now 73, wishes he were playing baseball today

    If you’re a long-time baseball fan, you may recall Morgantown’s Paul Popovich.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • 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

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