"To be honest, I've never been taught how to pass rush,'' Irvin said. "My last two years, I had 23 sacks. I've had like 40 in three years [including junior college], and I got it all on natural ability.''
That's true, at least to a certain extent. When Irvin arrived at West Virginia in August of 2010, he had no refined skills, only raw ability. With the season at hand, WVU's defensive coaches taught him a few basics about rushing the passer and then just let him go.
He had 14 sacks that year, second in the nation.
Before his senior season, West Virginia's defensive coaches worked with him more on technique, but the fact was that the scheme still did not lend itself to developing as a pass rusher. Playing in the run-heavy Big East, the linemen in that 3-3-5 defense were tasked mainly with stopping the run first and pass rushing second.
Irvin had 81/2 sacks as a senior.
"Not to knock my coaches, but they emphasized stopping the run and that's what we did. We never did any pass-rushing drills,'' Irvin said. "I feel like with the proper coaching and the right people around me, I feel like I can be a very, very productive player in this league for a lot of years.''
Therein rests the issue with Irvin in next week's draft. There is no question about his athleticism after he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and wowed teams in almost all of the drills. But is that enough? Draft history is littered with players who were drafted on potential and athleticism but never developed.
Irvin dismisses the notion.
"I don't think it will be a hard transition because I'm a great athlete,'' Irvin said. "I played receiver in high school. I went to junior college as a free safety before I went to defensive end. All the [technical issues of pass rushing], I don't think that will be hard for me. The hardest part will be picking up the coverages and stuff like that. The physical part, I don't think that will be a problem.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.