Latest Mountaineer Commit Draws Favorable Reviews

West Virginia's football team has been bedeviled by a speedy slot receiver/return man from the University of Maryland over the past two years, but the Mountaineers may be prepared to fire back with a very similar player in the near future.

Blackhawk (Pa.) High School's Jeremy Bruce is a fast running back and kick returner for the Beaver Falls area school, and his abilities have drawn a number of comparisons to current Maryland star Steve Suter.

And although no one is saying yet that the Cougar standout and most recent Mountaineer verbal commitment is as good as the Terp speedster, the parallels between the two players are undeniable.

Both are a bit short, standing in the 5-9 to 5-10 range. Both have blazing speed, with quick changes of direction, and both have strong builds that belie their shorter stature. And both were a bit overlooked in the recruiting process.

"That's exactly the kind of player I am," Bruce told upon hearing the comparison. "I've watched him on returns and catching the ball last year. I definitely see myself as that kind of player."

Like Suter, Bruce hasn't been overrun with offers. West Virginia was the first BCS conference school to make an offer after Bruce turned in two standout performances at WVU camps earlier this summer, and that fact carried a lot of weight with the rising senior.

"West Virginia was the first team to offer me and recognize me. That's a big deal," Bruce said. "The fans are unbelievable down there, and the atmosphere is great, so I decided to commit. I've played the recruiting game long enough.

"The coaches treat you well and talk straight up with you," Bruce continued. "Coach Rodriguez and Coach Gibson both told me they wanted me there, and they are honest and upfront. I like that."

Gibson, in particular, is building a great reputation as a recruiter, and judging from the comments of Bruce, it's easy to see why. The West Virginia native has a personality that seems to connect with many of the players he courts.

"My Dad is a Penn State grad, but he wants me to go to West Virginia. He likes WVU just as much as me."

--Jeremy Bruce

"I can call Coach Gibson anytime and talk with him," Bruce noted. "He tells me to call anytime I need to, whether it's about football or a problem or just to talk. That makes me feel really good about the relationship I have with him."

Although Bruce is the feature back for Blackhawk, this year will be his last in the backfield. The Mountaineers plan to start him out as a slot receiver.

"That will be different, but I will flank out a little bit this year," Bruce said of the position switch that awaits him in college. "I have been playing wide receiver during passing scrimmages this summer. One of the things I have been working on is perfecting my routes. I know they need to be very precise, so that is something I have been concentrating on. I catch the ball well, and running after the catch is a natural for me. WVU runs the spread, and that offense fits me perfectly."

In addition to catching passes, Bruce, like Suter, will also get the chance to return punts and kicks. His speed and "wiggle" - the ability to make defenders miss while still maintaining his forward motion - make him a dangerous return man, which will provide yet another avenue for him to contribute to the Mountaineers.

Although it's not a factor on returns, and in fact may be an advantage, some schools may have been turned off by Bruce's height. However, he doesn't see it as much of an issue.

"The only disadvantage I see is maybe in jumping for the ball, but a lot of corners aren't that tall either," Bruce said with the air of one who has often proved that players don't have to be 6-2 to excel. "I have a great vertical (last tested at 41") and I am a quick jumper. If I have the chance to go up and get the ball and I don't, I take it personally. I consider it a failure."

Obviously, Bruce didn't fail very much during his high school career, as the Mountaineers quickly identified him as a player they wanted on their team. Bruce led his Cougar squad to the AAA semi-finals of the WPIAL championships last year, and says he has more work to do this season.

"I consider it unfinished business," Bruce said of last year's run that fell just short. "I think we can do it this year. We aren't the biggest team or line, but we have a lot of good backs and receivers, and we all play hard."

Like many players who make an early decision, Bruce is happy to get his college choice out of the way so he can enjoy his senior season. One other benefit is his high school's location, which will provide easy access to Morgantown for games this fall.

"The coaches told me to come down to games, and I will come down to WVU as much as I can. It's a great feeling to be down there on the field with the crowd and the atmosphere - I'm looking forward to it."

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