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Cowboys Draft Talk: Workout Warrior Bruce Irvin

The Cowboys could use another Irvin, the last one they had worked out pretty well for them.
The Cowboys could use another Irvin, the last one they had worked out pretty well for them.

As we continue on with the Workout Warrior theme, we will breakdown one pass rusher who made himself a lot of money at the NFL Combine. West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin is a controversial prospect that absolutely put on a show. He is just one of the many pass rushers that the Dallas Cowboys could be interested in.

Prior to entering the combine he was known as a great athletic specimen, so he really didn't have to blow me away this week. However, Irvin still managed to impress with one of the best workouts in the entire combine. He may be one of the boom or bust prospects this year, lacking a lot of college experience. But the game tape that he does have is exciting to watch.

He has not taken the easy road to the NFL. His story is one of the most fascinating one's I have come across since I began researching the NFL Draft a few years ago.

Take the jump for more on Bruce Irvin...

Bruce Irvin

Let's take a look at his troubled past, because it really is an interesting story. He never finished high school and dropped out when he was 18 years old. Irvin ran the streets with the wrong crowd and spent three weeks in jail. He was kicked out of his house, became homeless, and had to find a place to sleep every night.

Here is his take about the dangers he faced growing up the way he did.

"You never know what tomorrow's going to hold," Irvin said. "You don't know if you're going to be locked up, if someone's going to rob you or if someone's going to get you back for stuff you did to them. There's a lot of confusion."

Then he made a decision that changed his life forever, and that decision began to take him down the path of living out his life's dream, playing in the NFL.

And there is one distinct turning point. For some reason, Irvin had the sudden urge to take his General Education Development (GED) test and reboot a once-promising football career in November 2007. He moved out of one friend's house for good, the same house that harbored drugs.

Literally one day later, that house was raided by police. Irvin's friend was caught. He was free. On Nov. 14, 2007 - a day Irvin recites instantly - that friend called Irvin from jail.

"He said, 'Go to school. God got you out of that house for a reason. Go to school and don't look back,' " Irvin said. "I've never looked back since then."

Irvin has cleaned up his act since then, and he appears to be on the road to redemption. I am honestly amazed that everyone blasts Janoris Jenkins for what he has done, but Bruce Irvin is never mentioned about being the wrong kind of guy. In my opinion, I think both young men deserve a fair shot. They made mistakes that they would love to go back and change. They just want to move forward from them. That is why I am willing to give them a shot before I write them off.

He received his GED and bounced around through a couple of junior colleges. He actually didn't make the Butler Community College football team and then transferred to Mt. San Antonio Junior College in 2009. Irvin began his football career there, earning All-American honors by racking up 72 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. rated him as their #2 player in the junior college ranks, and after his breakout season in 2009, he transferred to West Virginia in 2010. He broke out onto the national scene with 14 sacks, earning a honorable All-American mention and second team All-Big East.

In their 3-3-5 defense, he was basically a five-technique defensive end. You cannot be 245 pounds at defensive end in that system and expect to be productive, it's just not going to work. In his senior season he had a down year statistically, putting up 8.5 sacks. Irvin was never used properly at West Virginia. If he played as more of a pure pass rusher, his numbers would have been a whole lot better.

This is why I believe he still has his best football ahead of him. He is an amazing athlete that has been in the wrong defensive system, and with NFL coaching, he should develop into a even better pass rusher. In the draft you want to look for upside, talents like Irvin can be molded into what you want them to be. I tend to call these prospects, "pieces of clay." They are still raw, but haven't really been coached up yet. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can take a player like Irvin, and develop him into a productive NFL player.

Bruce Irvin's Combine Results
4.50 40 yard dash
23 bench reps of 225 pounds
33.5 inch vertical jump
123 inch broad jump
6.70 3 cone drill
4.03 20 yard shuttle

He is going to have to play as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 system, his size (6-3, 245) will limit him from getting many looks from 4-3 teams. From a pure pass rushing standpoint, he is one of the best in the draft. His speed and athleticism can be used to blow by offensive lineman. Good pass rushers know how to drop their pad level and dip their shoulders, he can do that very well coming off the edge. He has developed more than one pass rushing move and isn't a one trick pony. His bull rush does need some work and he is going to have to bulk up. Improving in that area will help him get to effectively push back offensive lineman and tight ends.

Because he is so athletic, he should be good in pass coverage when he has to drop back. During the combine he showed his fluidity in the individual workouts. This is an area he struggled with in college, especially when facing athletic tight ends. He is a natural athlete and his hips are fluid, so with better coaching and more experience, he should improve in this area down the road.

The biggest question mark about him is his run stopping ability. Can he be a three-down player in the NFL? Setting the edge against the run is something that the strong-side outside linebacker must do in the 3-4 defense. I am willing to overlook his deficiencies as a run defender because he oozes pass rushing talent like a Ninja Turtle. His liabilities as a run defender may keep him out of the first-round, which is a good thing if the Cowboys are serious about drafting him in the second-round. If he begins to fall out of the first-round, it may be time for Jerry Jones to breakout his signature draft day trading style that we didn't see last year.

Next on Cowboys Draft Talk: Workout Warrior Luke Kuechly


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