MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With summer workouts in full-sweat and the start of West Virginia preseason camp less than 40 days away, MetroNews continues counting down our Top 10 Most Pivotal Players for the 2014 season. Today we highlight another linebacker on the move:

No. 5 ISAIAH BRUCE
Position: Sam linebacker
Class: Redshirt junior
Measurables: 6-2, 232

Bruce felt marginalized and a tad uncomfortable last season after moving outside to the Spur linebacker spot. He forced three fumbles, recovered two more and made 43 tackles but admittedly wasn’t an instinctive fit in space. This year he’s returning to the middle, happy to be back in traffic and happy to be back at the position where he made 94 stops as a freshman.

Paired with Mike linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (86 tackles), Bruce should give West Virginia a middle tandem that’s experienced and athletic. They’re a reason the linebacking unit is the deepest on the defense.

However, Bruce hasn’t done much in the pass-rushing department—he only has a half-sack during his first two seasons. That means Bruce’s backup, junior college transfer Edward Muldrow, could become a situational substitute in obvious passing downs.

bubble graphic

31

bubble graphic

Comments

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    I enjoy this series , I just wish they would update the previous players in each column . I don't get to read all of them and it would be nice to know the other players . Otherwise its a good Summer exercise .

  • Ole Sasquatch

    Since I seem to have been the one to change the subject more to the defensive line, let me center in more to the simpler point I wanted most to get across. How many times last year vs. the pass did you see no more than 4 rushing the QB? Too many times. How many times did you see 7 people back and yet a wide open receiver catches the ball? Too many times. How many times did you see the defensive line wear out by the 4th. Qtr? Too many times. How many times did we see the opposing QB have too much time to pass? Too many times. Answer to all this: Blitz a hell of a lot more using linebackers and (or)safeties and start early, not in the 4th Qtr. I would rather see a completed pass vs. the QB out for a nice Sunday walk at our expense all afternoon. One of the biggest benefits of course is the big defensive lineman are only rushing for 5 sec. vs. 10 sec. and they stay a lot fresher for the 4th. Qtr. I am not too concerned about a 3 man line vs. a 4 man line.

  • An actual athlete

    Aaron, more down lineman doesn't always mean your better against the run. In fact one of the strengths of a 3-3-5 is that you have more agile tacklers against the run. Basically as long as your linebackers can hold ground against a guard you allow the rest of your comrades in the linebacking and strong safety corps to swarm and tackle. If I remember correctly that was a strength in casteels defense when I was there. Also a space and block eating nose tackle makes a huge difference.I think the linebackers will be solid if not exceptional, I'm not sure about the nose.

    • Aaron

      While I prefer a 4 man front, I understand that 2nd hardest thing to recruit is large defensive lineman that can occupy lineman and stuff the run and still move well enough to rush QB's who primarily line up 5-7 yards away from the line of scrimmage, thus the use of a 3 man front.

      I do think the linebackers are the strength of this defense and as such, if Gibson is smart, will often line up with 4 linebackers more often than not, particularly if 1 or 2 of them can defend the pass as well, which is more important in the Big 12 than it was in the Big East.

      Either way, a space eating nose guard would help tremendously.

      • An actual athlete

        Really the only true difference between an even or an odd man front is said space eating nose guard. Depending on offensive formation you will see as many as 5 people on the line of scrimmage most of the time. While I like a 4 man front as an aggressive and attacking player and now coach I like a 3 because it gives me a little more flexibility with which to attack. Being able to adjust to motion and shifts with an extra player standing up is easier to do on the fly without changing the call for all 3 levels. Again you are correct finding good defensive tackles is not an easy thing. The other big thing in a 3 is the ability to disguise who is coming and who isn't. It really comes down to what you have as far as talent as much as anything else.

        • Aaron

          I agree with everything you've said, as do most of the defensive coaches in the Big 12, which is why I believe WVU should take advantage of their running game and pound the gaps provided in a 3 man front, particularly given they do not possess hardest thing to recruit.

  • mad hatter

    dd

  • mad hatter

    huge contributer to the D,,, without a strong D , we'll suffer like last yr and yr before,,,hopefully Bradley will steer gibson and holgorsen in the right direction for a change... Lets make Bradley the HC,, man does he have some experience,,, we should have hired in as the HC in the first place.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    I'm going to tell you right now, if you expect to put pressure on the QB you can't just expect 300 lb. linemen to rush the QB very long - they will be exhausted before the end of the 1st Qtr.
    Blitzing has to start right away and continue 90% of the time. It was way too limited last year which was just damn ridiculous. You can only expect limited endurance out of the linemen fighting 2 or 3 people every play.

    • Aaron

      The beauty of a 3-3-5 is that any sack by a down lineman is icing on the cake as their job is to occupy lineman and allow backers to make plays. Part of that is in blitzing the QB. Jeff Casteel was pretty good at disguising when and where the blitzes would come from. Hopefully Tony Gibson will be as adapt in his calls.

      • Hop'sHip

        Aaron: You seem to be someone in the know. What happens to Jared Barber in this 3-3-5? He was pretty productive at Will last year. Does this defense no longer have will? I would suggest a 3-4-5 but Ole Sasquatch would probably challenge my math.

        • Aaron

          The beauty of a 3-3-5 is that it can easily become a 3-4-4 or a 3-5-3 depending on personnel, opponent and game situation. I know from the past two years, they can't have enough depth.

        • An actual athlete

          Hop my guess is you will see barber at all 3 linebacking positions during the year, primarily at the Will against running formations. Jared is a very good run defender but like a lot of our recent linebackers had trouble in pass coverage. Gholson is the starter because of his ability to rush the passer and set the edge on the weak side. I am interested to see how our blitzes are called and if we have any creativity and the ability to disguise them. That was a weakness last year.

          • Aaron

            I agree. I wonder if Gibson will call the game in a similar manner as Casteel, who seems to have a 6th sense in not only when to call the blitz but where to blitz from.

      • FNP

        Thank you for clearning that up. In this system its the linebackers who are key. The linemen are there to jam the line up and put pressure on the QB when they can. Pressure is also pushing the O-line back to where the QB has to move outside the pocket or make quick throws.

  • squad

    I hope we do get good enough that we can maybe stem the conference tide of these 45-42 type games. id like to see it bit more into the 20s and 30s. I think our D will be a lot better but I doubt if we will ever again approach or see the numbers we used to post on d in the BE. its just a far more open game now in the B12. Hopefully in relative terms, we will inprove.

  • FNP

    If the D-line can get some pressure this year, this will be a heck of a D. They have speed, speed and more speed.

    • notorious

      The linebackers will have to play out of their minds for this defense to have a chance. The DLine will struggle to get much of a pass rush. The defense lost its best player to the NFL. You usually don't improve much when you lose your best player.

      • Aaron

        Yes, they lost their best player, but they also lost a position with the switch to a 3 man front and while it may hurt them against Alabama, it most certainly will aid them in Big 12 Action, particularly with all that speed FNP pointed out.

        As to the 3 man defensive front, if they can get penetration and occupy at least 4 offensive lineman, what more can you ask them to do?

      • FNP

        You dont improve much when you lose your best player? They have improved overall and that will make them much better than last year. They have way more depth and it will show late in games. We lost the close games last year because we had no quality backups. One player can make an impact, but the team and its depth wins games.

        • notorious

          Sounds just like last year. Its a stretch to think that a unit (DLine) that lost its two best players will be better the next year.

          A year older doesn't automatically lead to marked improvement. The replacements haven't proven a thing on the field.

  • any major dude

    Any good defense starts with stopping the run. When we had good defenses, teams didn't run on us. Putting Bruce back in the middle, where he seems best suited, can only help. Kwiatkoski should be solid.

  • richard

    makes you wonder about last years coaching staff.....they moved everyone around to different positions. then this years staff are moving them back to where they were playing the year before. hope this years defense is better because of it.

    • Mitch

      @ richard,

      No, it does not make me wonder about last year's coaching staff. Your statement only makes me wonder about your football knowledge.

      • notorious

        Sometimes I get the feeling that Holgorsen could say that the Moon is made out of cheese and half the fan base would believe it.

        • Hop'sHip

          As long as it is gold and blue cheese, I believe. Just don't tell me that the earth is warming.

    • Jim

      The coaching staff moved guys around last year because 1. there was not much depth to each position after the loss of talent from 2012. 2. Because of reason 1. (good players moved to unfamiliar positions) the good players got banged up and replaced to underclassmen or 2nd/3rd stringers.
      Coach H. spelled this out throughout the season, stating our depth was not at the B12 level. But the players gained valuable playing experience and that is HUGE!
      Players will be surprisingly more active and productive than folks are giving them any credit for.

      • WJB

        WVU is always undermanned. He needs to concentrate on developing what he has and not worry or wait on the 4 and 5 star players to come. Pat white was a 2 star I believe and Slaton a 3 star!! Evaluate what is there and make the best of it.

  • jay zoom

    this is one man who will be an impact player for WVU to bad it will go for naught. 4-8 or less THANKS OLLIE

  • Hop'sHip

    I think they need to create a new linebacker position - the Allan linebacker. He would be responsible for delivering the best quotes.

    • Ole Sasquatch

      I think they have a guy named Mike back there now.