MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Today continues a position-by-position examination of where the West Virginia football team stands after spring practice.

The eight-day video series runs through the two-deep as we look four months ahead to the Mountaineers’ 2014 opener against Alabama and Year 3 in the Big 12 Conference.


Tuesday, April 15
 Defensive line: Can no-name group hold the front?
Wednesday, April 16
 Linebackers: Will they be nasty or negligible?
Thursday, April 17
 Secondary: Trying to reverse two dreadful years of pass defense
Friday, April 18
 Special teams: Aiming to be really special in 2014?
Monday, April 21
 Offensive line: Are the Mountaineers vulnerable up front?
Tuesday, April 22
 Receivers: Can they get their swagger back?
Wednesday, April 23
 Running backs: Is this the best unit in the Big 12?
Thursday, April 24
 Quarterbacks: Can any of the current QBs win eight games?


John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

After playing the Spur outside linebacker spot last season, West Virginia’s Isaiah Bruce sounds glad to be returning inside to the Sam spot this spring.


Isaiah Bruce likes the traffic involved with playing middle linebacker, the busy crush of bodies through which he made 94 tackles as a freshman. Last season, he shifted outside to Spur at the request of then-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. The fact that Bruce made only 43 tackles was partly a function of the position—and not necessarily evidence that Bruce was being used at the wrong one—yet his TFLs dropped and he didn’t register a single sack, even though part of the reason behind the move was to unleash Bruce as an edge rusher.

With Patterson gone and West Virginia transforming the Spur into what is essentially a nickel back, Bruce has happily returned to his old inside spot, happy once again to be playing in traffic.

“I feel really comfortable inside,” he said. “Seeing everything, rather than just one side, is a lot better for me.”

New defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who’s overseeing the linebackers with Damon Cogdell, said players like Bruce sometimes don’t acclimate to playing in space, don’t like feeling neutralized when teams run to the other side. Hence his return inside, allowing Bruce to flourish in straight-on attack mode and making the defense more nimble with safety K.J. Dillon at Spur.

Projected starters: Bruce (6-2, 232, redshirt junior) at the Sam spot and Nick Kwiatkoski (6-2, 230, redshirt junior) at the Mike are manning the middle, with Brandon Golson (6-2, 230, senior) at the Will on the outside.

Backups: Junior college transfer Edward Muldrow (6-3, 206, junior) looms behind Bruce, while Jared Barber (6-0, 228, senior) and Al-Rasheed Benton (6-0, 238, redshirt freshman) are the top reserves at Mike. At weakside linebacker, Sean Walters (6-2, 223 sophomore) is a rangy prospect, and Shaq Petteway (6-0, 233, redshirt junior) is back from a knee injury that sidelined him in 2013.

Watch the video at the top of the page for player highlights and to learn how Allan Taylor and Justin Hoff grade the linebackers after spring practice.

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    Great Stuff!!! I enjoy finding out who is doing what and who is moving where, I am glad to hear Bruce is moving back to the inside LB spot & I pray that we can get to the QB this year one way or another.... Stop the run and get to the QB....

    I don't know if the Big 12 offensives is going to put up such high numbers this year? Charlie Strong at Texas is a "D" first kind a guy.

    Oklahoma with the stoops brothers is going to have another good defense this year (really good)

    KEY TO WVU'S SEASON -- Turnovers-- (as a team plus or minus) execution on offense (TOP)
    Red-zone TD's

    it is my understanding that we need to score early this season & often in the first -half to get teams to be one sided against us... so we can pin our ears back, so to peak and go and get the QB's.......

    Let's Bring on the Mountaineeeeeeeeers!!!!!

  • Pruntytown

    There is no such thing as a "base" defense in college football anymore. Every team uses a nickelback or dime package. It is rare to stay in the same defense unless you play Navy or maybe Georgia Tech. Anyway it doesn't matter, we need the Jimmys and Joes to make plays and not worry about schemes.

  • jay zoom

    forgot to say ---- its a shame going into fall practice that we do not have a projected starting Quarterback.. WHY--WHY--WHY THANKS OLLIE

    • FNP

      Wake up man...there are a lot of schools who dont name one until Fall camp starts.

  • jay zoom

    3-3-5/4-3-4/3-5-3 -- or a 2-4-6-8 -- if dana and his band of so called asst. coaches can't teach these players the fundamentals of college football then we will be on the bottom of the pile again. 4-8 regardless THANKS OLLIE

    • RS

      Agree, it's all about getting back to basics with this team.

  • Alex

    3-3-5 or 4-3-4 or 3-5-3 call it what you want. We blitzed a lot last year and will do the same this year, or what ever is working. 3-5-3 is the way the coaches are talking at this time, they want to start the season. I personally feel it ( 3-5-3 )is the right set up to start. Just have to wait and see. I really like our speed this year on the linebackers, and experience.

  • Aaron

    My fist hurts from punching myself in the temple all day.

  • TruthTeller

    It does not matter what WVU does it will never be good enough for the haters and the zombies. Some of you people just need to get a life. Find something else to do besides trying to find everything that is wrong or not good enough for you. Move on and do something else. Go back to reading your comic books or playing your video games. You obviously don't have anything better to do but try to tear down WVU. Sounds like a bunch of insecure unhappy people taking their unhappiness out on WVU

  • Aaron

    It doesn't matter how good the linebackers are if the D-line doesn't do it's job. If this defense is going to vastly improve, the front 3 will have to lead the way or we will once again see the visiting side of the scoreboard roll like a slot machine.

  • Wes

    I liked the 3-3-5, even though it had a lot of detractors among fans. It fit what WVU is able to recruit and develop the best: Linebacker/Safeties that could intertwine positions. Personnel wise, there is little difference.

  • richard

    these are really good linebackers. they just need some coaching. you can see they are athletic. this defense should be decent this year. but the 3-3-5 might be what we need to go with if gibson can get them to buy into it before fall with lots of film watching.

  • chasmo

    Just wondering , any " predictions " on the Arndt Cousins ????????

  • Jamie in Nitro

    I'm a little confused. I thought we were running a 3-4 defense now. However, with yesterday and today's lists, it appears that we're back to the 3-3-5.

    • FNP

      We're running an odd D. They will be able to play both but I can see them settling in on the 3-3-5 like old times. That was the big reason Gibson was promoted to Coord. He knows the system and a good teacher. You'll see a fast and much improved D this year.

  • FNP

    That used to be a strength on our teams. Great linebacker play can win some big time games.

    • OldSkool

      Always had good linebackers until lately. Kwitkowski and Barber were impressive for being young players last year. Look for a lot of improvement at backer this year.

      • FNP

        I think we had good linebackers, just not good coaches.