It is no secret that West Virginia is going to use Bruce Irvin much more in 2011 than it did last season, when he led the league in sacks as a pass-rush specialist.
So how is Irvin preparing to increase his stamina while strengthening himself for more of a grind?
Irvin is taking part in something the strength and conditioning coaches have begun this summer called speed school. Every Tuesday and Thursday, players are encouraged to work on their speed, running form and conditioning. Irvin admits he has a "weird running style" so coaches are working with him to correct that. After two weeks, Irvin feels less winded and better prepared to play every down.
He also is taking better care of his body, cutting out 2 a.m. trips to McDonald's and the large McFlurry and 20-piece nuggets order that went with it.
"I know I’ve got a lot to do and I’ve got a lot to prove this year," Irvin said in a phone interview Thursday. "Everybody knows about me now so I'm not going to be a surprise. I’m going to have to work two or three times harder than I did last year. I’m taking proper steps and putting in the extra work."
Irvin burst onto the Big East scene last season after transferring in from Mount San Antonio Junior College, racking up 14 sacks. West Virginia fans quickly took to him. His legend has grown throughout the spring. There is on Twitter account dedicated to his exploits (@FauxBruceIrvin), a YouTube highlight video with over 20,000 views, and rumblings of a Web site and Facebook page for fans to join in and extol his virtues.
When asked about his growing popularity, Irvin said, "It feels good, when you think about the situation I came from and how I had to struggle and face a lot of adversity and didn’t have a lot of people who believed in me when I started getting in trouble. People wrote me off. It’s nice to see they love me as much as I love them, but I’m still hungry and I have to work."
Now that Irvin is less of an unknown, he anticipates teams will double-team him more and game plan for him by perhaps using running backs to chip him or sliding the protection his way. He saw more double-teams as the season wore on last season, especially against Pittsburgh, Rutgers and NC State. But he believes he will be able to fight off the double-teams because of his speed and strength. And if not, that leaves openings for teammates such as Julian Miller.
Irvin and Miller both ranked in the top 30 in the nation last year in sacks and combined for 23 sacks, and the two talk about being a fearsome duo all the time.
"We always in practice have a competition to see who is going to get the most sacks, but at the end of the day,we are rooting each other on trying to get better," Irvin said.
How much better can Irvin be? He set his goals to be a double-digit sack man once again in 2011 and some believe he will be in the conversation for Big East Defensive Player of the Year. But Irvin is not taking anything for granted. He is going to keep working hard with his sights set on getting better.