RENTON – Bruce who?
For the second season in a row, the Seattle Seahawks’ first-round selection elicited gasps and furrowed eyebrows from NFL observers and the team’s fans.
After trading down, sending the No. 12 overall pick to Philadelphia for the Eagles’ No. 15 pick, along with picks in the fourth (114 overall) and the sixth rounds (172), Seattle selected speedy pass rusher Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia.
That’s right, with their pick of pass rushers still on the board – including North Carolina’s Quinton Coples, South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones and USC’s Nick Perry – the Sea-hawks broke away from the pack once again by selecting someone who many had pegged as a second-round pick.
“I expected late first round, like thirty-something,” Irvin said. “But I didn’t expect 15. It was a little surprising.”
Last year, Seattle selected Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter with the team’s No. 25 overall pick, even though several draft analysts had him rated as a second-round prospect.
In need of pass rush help after finishing tied for 19th in total sacks last season with 33, Seattle coach Pete Carroll thinks he secured the best pass rusher in the draft in Irvin, who totaled 221/2 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia.
Seattle’s move was one of nine first-round trades in this year’s draft, the most since 2008.
The Seahawks now have seven picks remaining in the final six rounds, with the second and third rounds beginning at 4 p.m. today.
Seattle considered trading down again, but teams such as the N.Y. Jets, Chicago and New England likely had Irvin in their sights in the second half of the draft, and the team could have lost its player if it moved back too far.
“We were extremely excited,” Seattle general manager John Schneider said. “We didn’t want to get too cute with it. Obviously we viewed him as the best pass rusher in the draft. There was a certain spot we thought we could get to. And then we talked about going back again, but then we decided to just go ahead and lock it down.
“We had this guy rated as one of the top players in the draft.”
At 6-3, 245 pounds, Irvin totaled 40 tackles – including 15 tackles for a loss – and 81/2 sacks his final season at West Virginia. Irvin finished with 14 sacks in 2010.
Irvin was an All-Big East Conference first-team selection by the league’s coaches as a senior.
Carroll said he recruited Irvin while at USC and Irvin was at Mt. San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif. – where Seattle assistant secondary coach Rocky Seto played before transferring to USC – and developed a relationship with the 22-year-old Atlanta, Ga., native.
“He’s a fantastic football player,” Carroll said. “He’s a great pass rusher. The speed that he brings is so unique and so rare. When he had his opportunities to show it in college, he came out as the best pass rusher in America. That’s something that we’re really excited about.
“The fact that I’ve known him for so long and have background with the kid – I know what he’s been through as John (Schneider) mentioned – I feel like we’ve got a guy that we had interest in from a lot of areas. This guy’s going to be a great asset to the program.”
One of the reasons Irvin was considered a second-round prospect was his checkered past. Irvin isn’t ashamed to admit he dabbled in drugs and crime as a teenager.
His mother kicked him out of the house during that time and he dropped out of school. He played in three games at wide receiver his sophomore year, and was ineligible the next two years at Stockbridge High.
But Irvin eventually turned his life around, earned his GED and made his way to junior college, where he developed into one of the best college pass-rushing prospects.
“I went through a lot of stuff in my life,” Irvin said. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff, man. If the average person went through what I went through, they would not be on this phone with you right now.
“I could have chosen right, but I chose to go left. And when I chose to go left, I told God that I wasn’t going back to what was trying to suck me in. I just surrounded myself with a lot of positive people.”
Irvin said he had no idea how interested Seattle was in him. The Seahawks didn’t have Irvin in for a visit nor work him out at West Virginia. But Carroll did meet with Irvin at the NFL scouting combine, where Irvin raised eyebrows by running a 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and bench pressing 225 pounds 23 times.
“Me and Pete have a different relationship,” Irvin said. “Me and Pete go way back. We got more than just a coach/player relationship. I think we’re actually friends.
“I talked to them at the combine, and they had a serious talk with me. But since the combine I hadn’t heard from them, and that’s what really shocked me because I didn’t think they were really interested in me.”
Carroll compared Irvin to Denver’s Von Miller in terms of his ability to get off the line of scrimmage quickly and rush the passer. But he understands that Irvin is not a finished product, and will have to learn different aspects of playing pass coverage.
Right now Irvin is penciled in as a backup, pass-rushing defensive end behind Chris Clemons and will line up opposite Clemons on third down, similar to how Seattle used Raheem Brock last year.
Carroll said he plans on using Irvin the same way he used Clay Matthews at USC, as mostly a rusher who drops at times into coverage.
“He’s got extraordinary speed and tremendous flexibility,” Carroll said. “And great instincts and a great motor – He has all of the things that make up a good pass rusher.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 Eric.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks Doug Pacey, doug.pacey@ thenewstribune.com