Irvin Ready To Go Full Bore

MORGANTOWN – Bruce Irvin is back on West Virginia’s defensive line, and this year he’s no longer a part-time player.

Despite playing primarily on passing downs last year, Irvin piled up 14 sacks, ranking second in the Bowl Subdivision to Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers.

With the graduation of Scooter Berry, Irvin is now the starting defensive end – and he’s psyched about his opportunity. He’ll get his first career start in No. 24 West Virginia’s season opener on Sunday against Marshall.

And he could be in for a big day.

Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato is a freshman and Marshall’s offensive line also has three new starters, along with a new running back.

Irvin said his goal against Marshall and every other opponent this year will be, “Get the quarterback every down now.”

But the West-Virginia-Marshall contest could end up being a sackfest on both sides of the line.

Marshall’s Vinny Curry, the Conference USA preseason defensive player of the year, is coming off a 12-sack season.

And don’t forget about Irvin’s teammate, Julian Miller, a first-team all-Big East selection with nine sacks and a team-high 14 tackles for loss. MIller was moved from defensive end to tackle in the offseason.

“Bruce is going to get the attention early, which could open up some opportunities for me,” Miller said.

It was Miller who helped Irvin work on the nuances of messing up opponents’ run-block schemes over the summer. Irvin took defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s advice to heart in the offseason, working on techniques that could make him a more complete player.

“Mentally, I’ve gotten better,” Irvin said. “I’m still young to the game and I’m new to this position. I really wouldn’t say I played last year. I was just coming in to go get the quarterback.”

Irvin has put on 11 pounds and now is at 246. He’s heard the criticism that he’s susceptible to being manhandled by 300-pound linemen on running plays. He certainly expects more double teams on the pass rush.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is realistic on Irvin’s full-time status, leaving it up to the player to prove himself.

“Whether he can be every down as good as he is on specific pass rush things, I don’t know,” Holgorsen said. “Time will tell. He set the bar pretty high as far as being a third-down pass rusher. To be an every-down guy, to be as effective as he is on those third downs is challenging. You want a guy out there who does everything right and is good at all facets of the game.”

He’s certainly been able to play a variety of positions.

Irvin was a wide receiver in high school in Stone Mountain, Ga., before dropping out in 2006. A year later he earned his GED, eventually resumed playing football and went to junior college in California as a safety in 2008 before arriving in Morgantown a year ago.

He grew up admiring a mix of NFL stars – wide receiver Sean Taylor and linebacker Lawrence Taylor, to name a few.

Irvin always has had a high confidence in himself, which was matched by last year’s sack total. But he’ll quickly correct anyone who says he’s cocky.

“Just believing no one can stop me. That’s a big thing I believe in,” Irvin said. “I’m a firm believer like when I get on the field, I feel I’m the best player. I was taught that early. I feel like I’m one of a kind.”

He’s also appreciative of the acceptance he’s received from West Virginia fans at games and even at the grocery store, even if all they want to talk about is the anticipation of Holgorsen’s offense.

This season, they might just talk more about Irvin, too.

“I want to be better this year,” he said. “Speed kills. I’d rather be small and fast than big and slow any day. I like our d-line. We’re going to be real effective this year.”