When I scan through the various early 2012 mock drafts and big boards, one name is unusually absent.
Tony Pauline doesn’t list him among 40 prospects to watch this year. He isn’t part of Walter Cherepinsky or Rob Rang’s 2012 mocks. He isn’t part of Chris Steuber’s big board. In fact the only place I’ve seen this guy register is in Chad Reuter’s early projection – as the 32nd overall pick.
Yet in my opinion, he’s right up there at the top end. Ultimate star potential, a defensive prospect who may be the best overall in college football. This is one player who will help define his team as they mount what I believe is a realistic shot at making a BCS Bowl, maybe even the big one. On his highlight’s tape, they borrow the name ‘Beast Mode’, but if Marshawn Lynch watches this guy play I’m sure he won’t complain.
The best pass rusher in college football is Bruce Irvin of the West Virginia Mountaineers. He was part of my top-50 prospects for 2012, published yesterday… Check it out by clicking here.
He enters the 2011 season as a second year JUCO transfer. He never registered in the 2011 draft talk as it became obvious he wouldn’t declare, but Irvin could well be the best player in next year’s draft not named Andrew Luck.
When you see him lined up on the field, he doesn’t strike you as a player capable of complete dominance. He’s 6-2 and about 235lbs, so he’s not Da’Quan Bowers. However, he plays the game like a 280lbs defensive end with a bull rush that’s a thing of beauty. See the video above, where he drives back a much bigger offensive tackle then with one arm dumps the quarterback on his back. The other arm is used to bring a similar fate to the lineman.
He’s lightning quick as you’d expect given the size but unlike Von Miller who relied completely on speed, Irvin is more than willing to engage a tackle, drive him into the quarterback or beat him with stunning hand placement. I’ve never see a guy with this size paddle away an offensive lineman before.
Add that to quite simply unmatched balance and an ability to explode off the snap, get to the edge with unbelievable lean and finish consistently. The guy is a machine with unnatural qualities. Perhaps the only thing he lacks is a great spin move, but with those glorious hands, incredible power for the size and elite edge speed you’re talking about a first class talent.
One of the issues I had with Robert Quinn, Justin Houston et al last year is that while they were great edge rushers, there was no range and they didn’t mix things up enough. Irvin doesn’t shy away from attacking inside, he doesn’t just rely on pure speed off the edge.
Von Miller went second overall as a 4-3 linebacker convert. Irvin can add 10lbs of muscle and for me, play in a four man front. The strength is there, he will stand up against the run and set the edge.
He’s the best kept secret in college football. Last season he recorded 14 sacks and yet received virtually no hype. West Virginia pulled off a masterstroke appointing Dana Holgorsen as their offensive coordinator and future head coach. He was the mastermind behind Oklahoma State’s free-scoring offense which consistently churned out talent at running back and wide receiver. The Mountaineers will have a productive offense next season and with Irvin leading the way on defense they’re an outside pick to go unbeaten next year. That’ll help to put this guy firmly on the map.
Make no mistake this is the most devestating, dominating and exciting player you’ll watch during the 2011 college season. I’d recommend reading this piece from Geoff Coyle on Irvin’s background and route to WVU. More importantly, take a look at the schedule and make sure you grab the opportunity to watch him in action.