Bradford setting high goals

Not many players in the Pac-12 had a better second half of the season than Carl Bradford, but the Devil backer is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. With just one more week left in the spring, the junior playmaker is ready to exceed his 2012 accomplishments as he sets his eyes on re-writing a couple of school records.

Watching his feats as the hybrid linebacker/defensive end, you might not know that defense has hasn't always come naturally to Carl Bradford. In fact, coming out of Norco (Calif.) High School, he was rated as one of the nation's top fullbacks and had never even lined up even once during that time on the defensive side of the ball.

Yet, after playing sparingly at linebacker as a freshman, the man with the flowing hair and freakish athleticism caught the eye of Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham last spring and was immediately tabbed to his current role, and a key component in the new blitzing, constantly attacking ASU defense.

And while his sophomore season started out a bit slower than he would have liked, it finished stronger than most anyone could have expected.

"Last year was my first year playing defense, ever, so I had to get familiar with the whole defensive mentality, learn the defense, and everything like that," Bradford said. "At first, switching from defensive lineman to a linebacker, having to stand up and get key reads and stuff like that, was pretty difficult. I just think later on in the year, after watching more and more film of myself, I was able to critique my work and just went at it more. That's when I got better."

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Bradford finished the year with 81 tackles, second most on the team, while registering 20.5 tackles for a loss, also second on the team and the 10th most in school history. He became one of the premiere pass-rushing threats in the conference coming off the edge, totaling 11.5 sacks for the year, including at least one in each of the team's final six games of the year.

"It gives me a real good energy boost, and boosts my ego and confidence, knowing that I have that playmaker potential in me," Bradford said of last year's accomplishments. "I just feed off that, knowing the things I can do now. But that's only half of the stuff that I can do. I know I can accomplish way more than that.

"I hold myself at that level and won't allow myself to perform any less." Bradford quickly became the perfect complement to Arizona State All-American Will Sutton, as the two formed one of the most fearsome defensive duos in the Pac-12. They combined to become the first pair of teammates to post double-digit sack totals in the same season for the Sun Devils since 1994 and their combined 44 tackles for a loss in 2012 were the most by a pair of teammates in the program's history.

"We're understanding this defense more and understanding that we can rely on each other more," Bradford remarked "We lost some leaders like Brandon Magee and Keelan Johnson, but I think guys like myself, Will Sutton and Alden Darby are stepping up into those positions, helping the younger guys and keeping it as one.

"And then with the return of Will, it's a great thing for me because we feed off each other's energy and he's my leader, in my eyes. I look up to him and we just go back and forth. He's a great energy boost to this team."

Together, the two helped coin the wildly popular "eating" phenomenon that members of the ASU defense adopted, a celebration they performed after recording a sack or tackle for a loss. Bradford's 1.58 TFL's per game last season were the 11th most in the nation, and second in the conference to only Sutton.

"We're always eating," Bradford said proudly. "Eating is just winning every day. It's not just some word; it's something that's meaningful to us. We feed off that and do our little dance and keep the defense hyped, keep the whole crowd hyped. Once we start making explosive plays, it's like nobody can stop us."

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If the first couple weeks of the spring are any indication, Sun Devil fans can expect to see Bradford doing a lot more eating in 2013. The explosive playmaker has shown a knack for getting into the backfield against the first team offense coming from both the edge and up the middle.

"I come from everywhere, depending on what blitz we're running," Bradford remarked. "I'm more of an all-around playmaker. But I've been working on my technique more. I think last year I relied more on my God-given ability and talent and didn't really use proper technique. But this year I've been critiquing that more, and getting that down."

"I just really want to perfect my technique and get it down pat because I want to go for the record this year. I'm trying to chase (former ASU player and Lombardi Trophy winner) Terrell Suggs, that's my goal."

Helping him with that technique has been new ASU defensive line coach, Jackie Shipp, who joined the Sun Devil coaching staff just weeks before the start of spring camp. Despite being a late addition, Bradford admits that Shipp has had a profound effect on him through the first three weeks of the spring.

"He's a great guy and came from a great program (Oklahoma) and he knows how to win," he said. "He knows how to get it done and I just try to take in as much information from him. Even though he's not really my position coach, he still teaches me a lot and I know that where I want to go, he's been there. So I just get every detail I can from him and try to perfect it."

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Another welcomed sight for Bradford this spring has been the re-emergence of Sun Devils running back and former high school teammate Deantre Lewis. Even before their Norco days, the tandem has always enjoyed a close relationship, as Lewis was a major influence in Bradford's pledging to the maroon and gold in 2009.

After Lewis suffered a gunshot in 2010 and underwent a lengthy rehab process thereafter, the speedy running back looks better in recent years and nobody is happier to see him excelling on the field than Bradford.

"It's a great feeling," Bradford admitted. "He's my brother. I've known him for ten years and I know the type of guy he is. He's a great guy and he gives all his effort. When everything went down, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do, but now that time has gone by, he's getting the feel of things again and getting back to the old Deantre. He's a very good playmaker and I'm just so excited to see him out here again.

"Seeing him run around is a blessing."

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In contrast, heartache struck Bradford with the recent passing of his father, Roy Bradford. The linebacker credits his father for teaching him how to play football as youth and vows to always keep him in his thoughts this upcoming season.

"He's the reason why I play this game," Bradford noted. "He's been a great idol to me, a great hero. I played for him before he passed away, but knowing that tragedy happened, I know I can't do anything about but I know God's got a plan for me.

"I know he's always watching over me, I want to dedicate this season to him and show him what I can do."

After a remarkable 2012 campaign and driven by several factors, the anticipation for Bradford's exploits this year will only grow stronger.


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