Commentary

Personnel Points: Irvin impresses

Bruce Irvin has the talent to be a difference-maker at the NFL level

Originally Published: November 8, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Bruce IrvinAP Photo Michael SwitzerBruce Irvin has played well this season for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Each week, Mel Kiper gives updates on another group of prospects who have caught his eye, some well-known, others well under the radar.


RB Montee Ball and FB Bradie Ewing, Wisconsin Badgers

In Wisconsin's blowout win over Purdue, Ball, the Badgers' 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior running back, had 20 carries for a career-high 223 yards and three touchdowns. After failing to amass 100 yards rushing in his first eight games of the 2010 campaign, he came on very strong down the stretch. In the Badgers' final five games of that season, Ball rushed for more than 125 yards in each, totaling 777 rushing yards for an impressive 6.8 per carry average. He came into this season in the best shape of his life and it has certainly paid dividends. A young man who has become very adept at finding the end zone, he currently leads the nation with 21 rushing touchdowns and has 35 over their past 14 games. What you saw in their win over the Boilermakers was a running back who possesses very good vision. He has impressive burst through the hole, along with the ability to run through tackles. He has good cutback ability. And when given the opportunity, he's proven capable of making big plays in the passing game (13 catches for a 17.6-yard average and three touchdowns).

Obviously, a huge part of the success enjoyed by Ball has to do with the exceptional play of the Badgers' offensive line. While the guys up front get most of the praise, Ewing quietly goes about his business with little in the way of fanfare. As we witnessed on Saturday, the 5-11, 243-pound senior grades out as an excellent lead blocker. Adding to his value is that he's also proven to be an underrated weapon for them catching the football coming out of the backfield (13 receptions for a 14.9-yard average). When you combine the two, it equals the No. 1 fullback ranking on my board.


Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia Mountaineers

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst