WVU's Bruce sees change for the better
MORGANTOWN - Perhaps the most useless item for media covering West Virginia's football team and the fans following their Mountaineers is the spring depth chart.
Clothes designer Isaac Mizrahi sees fewer changes.
Which is working out just fine for WVU redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce.
On the latest depth chart, Doug Rigg is listed No. 1 at the Sam inside linebacker spot. But of late, returning starter Jared Barber and Rigg have been playing the Will weakside inside spot. Upon his return, Terence Garvin will play the Star position, along with Shaq Petteway and Wes Tonkery. Josh Francis and, upon his return, Jewone Snow are slotted for the Buck. Tyler Anderson, now listed No. 1 at end, also plays there.
Bruce, though, said he's has been practicing No. 1 at the Sam inside spot.
"We only have one other person at Sam: Nick Kwiatkoski," Bruce said. "So we'll both see a lot of playing time."
Assistant coach Steve Dunlap confirmed that. And it's an interesting development.
When Bruce was signed, there certainly wasn't much to indicate he'd make such an immediate impact.
He played high school ball in Jacksonville, Fla., at Providence High. The team improved under coach Paul Peterson and made the playoffs in Bruce's senior year - before losing to Trinity, Mountaineer tailback Andrew Buie's old team.
Bruce was all-city. He made the 2010 Jacksonville Times-Union Super 24. He was a state champ in the 300-meter hurdles. But the list of offers wasn't overly impressive. Purdue, Wake Forest, Illinois and Western Michigan put scholarships on the table.
"West Virginia, though, was my first offer," Bruce said. "It came in my junior year. I really liked the scheme, the 3-3 stack."
Of course, the stack has been scrapped. So has the first coach to recruit Bruce - ex-offensive line coach Dave Johnson. New co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson now coaches Bruce.
Again, though, change has done Bruce good.
"Coming in the first year, I was expecting to play and didn't get that," Bruce said. "I had my opportunity but didn't excel to the point they wanted me, so they redshirted me. I was a little disappointed, but realized it was better for me. I got a lot bigger, faster, stronger and another year of education.
"One year into it, learning how this game is played at this level, it's definitely been an advantage."
Bruce is one of many who hit WVU expecting to play the 3-3-5 odd stack instead of the current 3-4 that transitions into a 4-3.
"In high school we ran a little 3-3 stack," Bruce said. "I was pretty good at it, but at that point I was one of the bigger kids. I looked pretty good at it. So I was thinking, ah man, a 3-3 stack, I should do pretty well. But going against people 100 pounds heavier than you, it's not as easy.
"Now, though, we're running a 3-4 defense and it's a lot better fit for me."
Bruce looks anything but small, but he begs to differ.
"I'm smaller than most linebackers at 6-2, 226," he said. "The way I see other people, they are huge."
For WVU fans unfamiliar with Bruce's game, he gives the lowdown.
"Fast-paced, always running to the ball, a hustler," he said. "I won't stop. At all."
And the more changes the better. Bruce, however, admits he's ready to become a creature of habit.
"I'm definitely liking the changes," he said. "But I'm hoping they stay the same for a while."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.