ASU Football's 13 Most Important Players in 2013: #2 - LB Carl Bradford

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It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we soon found out that Bradford can fly. By Stephen Dunn It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we soon found out that Bradford can fly. By Stephen Dunn

He’s a freak.

Anyone who saw Arizona State’s Carl Bradford play during the 2012 season could tell you that, but he also earned that title from a highly respected source over the offseason.

Thanks in part to his rare combination of size (6-foot-1, 241 pounds), speed, and strength, Bradford earned a spot on CBS Sports writer Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks List”, highlighting the 20 top athletic marvels in college football.

Being a freakish athlete is one thing. Being a standout college football player is another, and Bradford made that leap last fall for the Sun Devils.

After redshirting in 2010 and seeing spot duty at both defensive end and linebacker the year after, Bradford was installed as the “Devilbacker” in ASU’s new defensive scheme under head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Paul Randolph. The position is a hybrid of defensive end and outside linebacker with one mission: Attack.

Thanks to Bradford’s rare skillset, he did just that—early and often.

By the time the dust settled, Bradford had racked up 81 tackles (20.5 for loss), 11.5 sacks, five passes defended, three forced fumbles, fumble two recovers, and one interception. His performance against USC stands as one of the Pac-12’s best single-game efforts of the year.

In most any other situation, such a season would have made Bradford a household name, but playing alongside a consensus All-American in Will Sutton, Bradford remains a relative unknown outside of ASU circles.

Yet if 2012 was his breakout performance, 2013 is primed to be his time to steal the show thanks to a few factors working in his favor.

Bradford has been one of the team’s standouts throughout the grueling offseason strength and conditioning program, and was often dominant during the team’s practices during spring. He’s also armed with a year of experience in the system and with the coaching staff, Bradford will be unleashed in a variety of ways. 

He also has a 305-pound asset helping him out.

After his All-American year, Sutton will deservedly command extra blocking attention from opposing teams, and this will help free up some lanes that Bradford can exploit. It’s a classic “pick your poison” scenario for Pac-12 offensive coordinators.

While Sutton’s presence makes things easier for Bradford and the rest of the defense, don’t think that the Devilbacker can’t make plays without his All-American teammate holding down the point of attack.

In the four games last year in which Sutton missed or was greatly impacted due to his recovery from a knee injury sustained early on against Oregon, Bradford had four sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss, including his incredible effort against USC.

Such are the expectations and confidence heading into his junior season that Bradford himself has dubbed 2013 the “CBE”, or “Carl Bradford Era”.

If Bradford can in fact bring about a new age of Sun Devil football, it may just help to usher in a division title for ASU.