Sun Devil Preview: LB Carl Bradfordby Fabian Ardaya on Aug. 14, 2013, under Arizona State Sun Devils
TEMPE, Ariz–Arizona State, for its offensive prowess, is easily one of the most talented defensive teams in the Pac-12 for this coming season. While almost all of the national attention goes to the big interior defensive line of redshirt senior Will Sutton and sophomore Jaxon Hood, almost no attention goes to Carl Bradford, who could be an unsung hero for this Sun Devils squad.
Bradford, a redshirt junior, will lead a veteran linebacker group that includes senior Chris Young and redshirt senior Anthony Jones in what will be a tough schedule for ASU this season. Bradford comes into this season along with teammate Will Sutton as two of only 10 returning FBS starters that posted 10+ sacks last season (Sutton had 13, Bradford had 11.5), sparking a bit of a competitive rivalry between the two.
“We have a little thing between us. He wants to break (the ASU single-season sack record) and I want to break the record,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s just go get 50′. We need that competition to keep pushing ourselves forward.”
Bradford had an incredible season last year, as he and UCLA’s Anthony Barr are the only returning FBS player to have had 80+ tackles, 20+ tackles for loss, and 10+ sacks last season. He and Sutton combined last season as the first ASU duo to post double digit sacks since 1994. Bradford admittedly says that he really has benefitted from having such stars as Sutton and Hood in front of him to open things up.
“(Jaxon Hood) has a lot of potential. He’s very physical, and you could see last year as a freshman he dominated the offensive line, and he’s shown that again this camp. Him and Will together are just so great,” he said. “I just feel honored to play with those guys. Those are two great interior linemen and I think that it will just help our defense in general.”
Although numerous teams ignore him to focus on double and sometimes even triple-teaming Sutton on the line, Bradford understands his role and his ready for when an opportunity presents itself.
“When (Sutton gets double-teamed), I’m just on the edge with that one on one block, and they don’t want that either, so I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Bradford said.
Arizona State opens against FCS opponent Sacramento State, but follows that with a rough four game stretch against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC, and Notre Dame, all of which feature a huge front seven. Bradford, however, is more than prepared for the challenge.
“It’s just all about being physical, and the will to go and beat that offensive line, attack those blocks, and not sit back and let them get up on us,” he said.
Bradford believes that with the amount of talent on offense as well as on defense, the expectations are sky high.
“(Will Sutton) wants to go out with a Rose Bowl or National Championship victory, so I kind of had a feeling he would be back,” Bradford said. “Our one main goal is to win the National Championship. It might not sound too good right now, but we’re willing to prove it and show that we’re the team to do it.
Bradford was named to the 2013 watch lists for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award, and Butkus Award. He was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2012. If he posts similar numbers this season as he did last season, it is reasonable to assume that he would have to consider entering his name in the 2014 NFL Draft, and could be a sleeper candidate to make an impact at the next level.