This year, Bruce admits that he wouldn't be in the same position.
"At least I wouldn't be on the ground," he said, laughing. "I was so much smaller. I was around 205 pounds, and I wasn't coming in thinking I was going to hit people that were 320. That wasn't going to work."
Prior to West Virginia's 69-34 win over Marshall on Saturday, Bruce was asked to describe his game for those who hadn't seen him play before. He said: "One of my aspects is flying to the ball, and that's something that I do well. We know this defense quite well. We have a really good coach in [linebackers coach Keith] Patterson, but I think we're pretty similar. I think I executed situations better at that time."
That was fairly obvious after the first game. The redshirt freshman is truly the type of player fit for this defense.
"When changes started happening, I was in the 3-3-5 stack and was redshirted. When the new coaches came in, I thought it was a chance at a new beginning. These coaches don't know anything about our players so everyone is having equal amount of reps. They're seeing everybody, and I figured that was my time to show out. It worked out," Bruce said. "Last week of camp. That's when coach was saying that we were playing for a spot now and that everything counts. At that point, I told myself I was going to settle in, make plays and then one play after another. I guess he liked what he's seen."
After redshirting last year, Bruce is a full-time starter – and everyone knows his name. After all, he was named the Big 12 Conference's Defensive Player of the Week after his 16-tackle performance.
Bruce's first start was definitely one to remember. He even scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery.
It was the most tackles by a WVU player since former linebacker Anthony Leonard had 16 in 2008 vs. Auburn. Bruce was just the third player since 2002 to have 16 or more tackles in a game (Leonard and former linebacker Marc Magro were the others). Bruce's tackle total was also the most for a WVU freshman since Mike Collins had 17 vs. South Carolina in 1990.
Bruce had the third-most tackles of any player in the first week of college football. Impressive indeed.
"I thought he played well," said Mountaineers defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. "It was good to see him step up in that role because he really hadn't played a whole lot last year. For him to come in and play the amount of snaps he did, it's a credit to him."
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen was pleasantly surprised by the redshirt freshman during the Marshall game.
"He practiced well in spurts. I didn't know if he could do it for four quarters, but he did and he has tremendous conditioning. Not everybody 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," he said. "He's a smart kid. When the referees were in here going over all of the rules he raised his hand three or four times and was asking questions. He's a smart kid, his conditioning is good, and it was a pleasant surprise, but he, along with everybody else, has a whole lot to work on."
How does he keep it up, though?
"Just keep playing the next play. You can't really think about the last play or the next play, you think about the present play that you're doing right now. You have to react to the play you're seeing, make a good play and then do the next one," he said.
Is there any pressure? Sure, there should be. But, he doesn't feel it.
"I don't feel too much pressure, because I know what our team is capable of and has been doing. We're all excited to play," he said. "I like to make plays. I find my way to the ball, and I'm always running. I try not to tie up to blockers often. I'm always chasing the ball."