The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

September 6, 2012

WVU linebacker’s dazzling debut surprising

MORGANTOWN — A media panel’s selection of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith as Big 12 Offensive Player of The Week, certainly was no surprise.

He was absolutely magnificent during his three-quarter performance in the season’s opening win against Marshall, 69-34.

But it was surprising to me, and probably numerous others, that WVU linebacker Isaiah Bruce was chosen Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.

It’s not that Bruce didn’t deserve that honor. He made a team-high 16 tackles, including seven solo stops, in his very first college contest. He was redshirted last season as a newcomer.

Bruce, who’s from Jacksonville, Fla., also had a tackle for an eight-yard loss and recovered a fumble, which he returned 43 yards for a touchdown.

His 16 tackles were the most by a Mountaineer freshman since Mike Collins had 17 against South Carolina in 1990. That four-year defensive back served as a captain of the undefeated 1993 team his senior season.

In case you’re wondering, Steve Dunlap still owns the school’s all-time record for most tackles in a single game. He logged 28 against Boston College in 1974.

Dunlap now is the most experienced member of WVU’s current coaching staff. He coaches the outside linebackers and also serves as coordinator of the special teams.

Asked if he had expected Bruce to be so productive, head coach Dana Holgorsen said:

“He practiced well in spurts. I didn’t know if he could do it for the four quarters, but he did and he has tremendous conditioning.

“Not everyone looked the same in the fourth quarter as they did in the first quarter. But he looked like he was doing the same stuff consistently for four quarters.”

Bruce, who stands 6-foot-1 and tips the scales at 226-pounds, was coached by Paul Peterson at Jacksonville’s Providence High School.

He was a four-year starter who helped his team to an overall record of 33-11, including a 10-2 mark as a senior. Providence High reached the regional finals in 2010.

Bruce made the Jacksonville Times-Union Super 24. In his final year, he was credited with 101 tackles, six sacks, five tackles for losses, and three blocked kicks.

Bruce was a three-time all-city first team selection, and he was a state champion in the 300-meter hurdles.

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