Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

Defensive assistant Tom Bradley is entering his 34th season of college coaching and his first at West Virginia.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three days into his first preseason camp at West Virginia, assistant coach Tom Bradley noticed a tell-tale sign from the Mountaineers’ defensive linemen.

“They don’t run around like a bunch of fat kids,” he said. “They get to the ball.”

This is Bradley’s 34th camp overall, and during the previous 33 at Penn State he helped construct some hellacious defenses—the kind of hellaciousness recently absent from West Virginia. Though the arrival of such a credentialed assistant may not suddenly transform WVU into a top-15 national defense like the ones Bradley designed at Happy Valley, there exists a presumption he will vastly improve the units that ranked 101st and 108th the past two seasons.

There’s another point of optimism for Bradley. As a frequent visitor to the weight room this summer, he saw no signs of last season’s losing record contaminating the culture.

“It’s not a team that trains like a 4-8 team, it’s not a team that practices like a 4-8 group,” he said. “They come out every day and give you some really great effort. That’s one of the things I’ve been impressed with.”

“They don’t run around like a bunch of fat kids. They get to the ball.” — Tom Bradley on West Virginia’s defensive linemen

Camp opened with senior Dontrill Hyman and redshirt sophomore Christian Brown at first-string defensive ends, and junior Kyle Rose entrenched at nose guard. None of those players popped up on preseason All-Big 12 teams or even those bloated watch lists for national awards.

“I don’t mind if we have a bunch of no-names in August—I just hope we have a couple names comes December,” Bradley said.

Though Rose produced some noticeable plays at defensive end last season, he doesn’t possess the explosive mobility preferred in edge rushers. Thus, with two-year starter Shaq Rowell having graduated, Rose embraced a return to nose guard upon Bradley’s arrival last spring.

“I like the inside more,” Rose said. “Playing outside you get more single blocks, but inside fits me better. Not being as quick off the edge and having a wrestling background, it fits my style. Moving inside I’m able to make an impact.”

Bradley sensed Rose was willing to sacrifice tackles and sacks for the thankless, gap-plugging scrums that occur on the interior. “It’s nasty in there, and that’s a thankless task,” the coach said. “They’ve got to be muckers and grinders. Some guys don’t enjoy that, but Kyle does.”

At 293 pounds, Rose currently is 12 pounds lighter than Rowell’s listed weight last season, though he plans to be at 300 by the season opener Aug. 30. Coincidentally, Brown spent the summer slimming down after shifting outside from the nose.

“It’s college football and it’s all about where they need you,” Rose said. “If I had a good arm they’d put me at quarterback, but I don’t.

“Just being in there where the grind’s at—where you’ve got guys coming at you every play, being double-teamed and triple-teamed—I love that type of stuff.”

With Dana Holgorsen focused on the offense, West Virginia’s defensive staff essentially features “an extra guy,” according to Bradley, who was primarily a linebackers/secondary coach while serving as Penn State’s coordinator. The staff shuffling has created overlap.

First-year assistant Damon Cogdell, listed as linebackers coach, has been overseeing drills with defensive ends this week while Bradley concentrates on the interior linemen. First-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, WVU’s safeties coach in 2013, is working with linebackers but eventually hopes to float from unit to unit.

The overlapping responsibilities allows coaches to “get more position-specific out on the field,” Bradley said. “That’s good because now you give more individual attention to everybody.”

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  • gv

    Coach Bradley is a "class act", what a great addition to the coaching staff!

  • any major dude

    Yes- shove em around! Smash mouth somebody! To paraphrase Coach Seider, play pissed off and really get after it! Fly around and make sure tackles! Lay the lumber like Karl (Slobberknocker) Joseph!
    I call him Teddy because 1)Teddy Pendergrass was nice and mellow off the field like Karl cause he brings it all, on the field, and 2) Smash hit after smash hit!

  • FNP

    Pressure on the QB and limiting turnovers will bring us an 8-4 season or better.

  • wvu_93

    We have the talent and good coaches, we just needed someone to bring it all together, Welcome to Morgantown Coach Bradley.

  • Shawn 108

    I think there are 3 X factors this season.
    1. Tom Bradley- I think he will help our defensive line be a factor.
    2. Tony Gibson- He has that hard nosed coaching factor to put a chip back on our defense's shoulders.
    3 Clint Trickett- can he stay healthy and improve from last year.

  • JimJim

    Don't believe the hype. 4-8 Bet on it.

  • VaultHunter

    Wish we had him here last season. I think coach Bradley was the missing piece to our puzzle. He should give an instant impact to the entire team but he will help turn this defense into a top half Big12 defensive unit not a bottom half defense.

    Glad you are here coach!

    Give em hell!

    Lets Go Mountaineers!

  • Baldeagle

    On Alabama's first reception, I want to hear a pop so loud and see the receiver get up slowly and by the time he is up, it's the 4th quarter.

    • Dave

      It sure would be nice to see Karl Joseph bust the first one. Crazy 8, I love that guy.

  • Alex

    With Bradley on this team should uplift any coach and player..... With all of his knowledge, experience, and wisdom should make WVU a better defense year after year as long as he is here... Sure makes things sound more promising..... What is the old saying? Offense wins games..... Defense wins championships.......I love it...

    • Protechcpa

      Alex, you are signing my theme song! I agree completely. Two years ago, when we were lighting up the score board against Baylor (and they were right on our heels every step), I turned to the guy sitting next to me and said "This is fun, but we cannot count on out scoring everyone. For this season to be a success, we need more defense." Still looking for it. I hope this is the year. Bradley is my dark horse pick to replace Holgorsen. I can dream.

  • any major dude

    I think we have decent talent and more experience on defense this year. With Tony Gibson as coordinator and the addition of Bradley, there are
    improvements there as well.

  • Ducks In A Row

    Perhaps, just perhaps, we may have something special this year. I know, I know, roll with the negativity, but this might just be THAT team, THIS year. Think about it......... The Bama game will tell us all we need to know.

    • Protechcpa

      The Bama game is not the season. We truly can get blown off the field in that game and if Trickett survives, still have a good season. Maryland. That will be our bellwether game. If Bama and Maryland blows us out, call it another rebuilding year.

  • TX Hunter

    Something about this article makes me a little more optimistic about this upcoming season.

    Are testosterone and aggression back in style in WV? Let's hope so. The soft junk we've seen limply oozing from Morgantown over the past couple of years looked more like an episode of "The Gilmore Girls" than football from a tough-guy state.

    • Ducks In A Row


  • Ole Sasquatch

    Let's hope the linebackers & defensive backs can also get to the ball.
    Remembering last year a single receiver would catch a pass on them while they stood there and let them catch it in the middle of them. Happened time after time.

    • Protechcpa

      I do not understand what passes for fundamentals these days. Since when is an open field tackle accomplished by stiffening a shoulder and bumping against a ball carrier, with the intent, I assume, to knock him off his feet, when what actually happens is he side steps and runs for another 20 or 30 yards or perhaps a TD. What ever happened to wrapping up when tackling? When Daryl Talley tackled a guy, he went down and Talley on top of him. Ask Doug Flutie about that.

      • Adam

        You are correct about our recent poor tackling performance. Thinking about some of those mean defenses we had in the past with guys like Daryl Talley and Grant Wiley got me through some of those defensive stink fests last year.

        In the second halves of some of those games, I would take to the computer to watch Grant Wiley's goal line stand against VA Tech in Blacksburg. Maybe they should show that footage to this current group!

    • Mike

      Ole Sasquatch you are so right. These past few years the D seems to play way to soft. That killer attitude was missing. How many TEs have killed us on the same play over the middle game in and game out. I want to see a smash mouth D. One the hits and keeps on hitting. If you get a few late hit calls so what. Make the other teams O pay for every yard they get. Remember D wins games. Like someone else said the Bama game will tell us a lot.