The Arizona State Sun Devils surprised some people with their success in 2012 under first year head coach Todd Graham. Their success was fueled by several formerly-unknown players stepping up in major ways and a defense that led the nation in tackles for loss and finished No. 2 in the country in sacks. Hybrid linebacker Carl Bradford fit into both those categories and could make a case for Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2013…if he can avoid getting overlooked again.
The former standout high school fullback was recruited to Arizona State by former head coach Dennis Erickson and Bradford jumped at the opportunity. He played fullback with a linebacker’s mentality, playing angry with a chip on his shoulder and always in attack mode, so the move felt natural to him and he responded last season, recording 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss during a breakout sophomore season as a hybrid linebacker/rush end off the edge.
But his efforts were largely overshadowed. His story of being a fullback-turned-linebacker would have been more exciting, but Anthony Barr of the UCLA Bruins was doing it even better. He couldn’t even get recognized as the best player on his own defense playing alongside Will Sutton, who was so dynamic last season, recording 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in just nine games, that he walked away with the Morris Trophy as the conference’s top defensive lineman and the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Award, given to the Pac-12’s top defensive player.
That hasn’t dampened Bradford’s excitement for this season, however. He has accepted the challenge with open arms, engaging in a friendly rivalry with Sutton to see who can be the best player on the Sun Devils’ defense, pushing each other to get better each and every day. In the end, that rivalry will only make both players better and give opposing offenses nightmares trying to contain both of them during a game.
Bradford has the drive, the attitude and the skillset to be a major force in the Pac 12 this season. Can he overtake his own teammate and win the Pac 12 DPOY in 2013?