After 33 years of pacing the sideline in Happy Valley and two years working in radio, Tom Bradley has found a new home in Morgantown serving as senior associate head coach under Dana Holgorsen.
Bradley did just about everything in his coaching career while at Penn State. He coached running backs, receivers, cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers. In addition to the senior associate head coach title, he is coaching the WVU defensive line.
“I missed coaching, but it was a good experience with what I got to do. I did the stuff for CBS and Clear Channel. I got to cover the Steelers. I got to see a lot of football,” Bradley said. “From that standpoint, it was great. I enjoyed the people I worked with, but you miss being around the game and all the things that go on.”
It took Bradley time to agree to come to Morgantown.
Holgorsen spearheaded the movement to bring the longtime Joe Paterno assistant to the program. He even had Athletic Director Oliver Luck and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson get involved with luring Bradley down I-79 from his radio job in Pittsburgh.
“Even after Tony (Gibson) said we had all back end guys. I told him I’d coach the linebackers because I did it at Penn State for 10 years. He said we need someone (who) knows the defensive line,” Bradley said. “Then he pulled a fast one on me. He asked (Didn’t you coach defensive line one year?) Then I just said ‘OK, I’ll do it.’”
Bradley is trying to get familiar with his new surroundings and his new players. He eats lunch or dinner with his defensive line to get to know them a little bit more as people.
On the field, Bradley is finding out the abilities of Kyle Rose, Christian Brown, Dontrill Hyman and the rest of the defensive line. He told them he didn’t watch film of them, because he wanted to start them all off with a clean slate.
“I told them that I didn’t, but I did a little bit. I just didn’t want to have a preconceived notion. I didn’t talk to a whole lot of people about those guys because I didn’t want everybody’s opinion on them,” Bradley said. “I just wanted to make my own opinion and give everyone a fair start. I looked at some of the bigger games to see, but I tried not to judge them.”
Bradley has coached great talent in the past. As a coordinator and linebackers coach, he has put players in the NFL like Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny, Devon Still and Lavar Arrington.
He also was part of staffs that coached top-10 defenses at Penn State.
West Virginia is coming off a 4-8 season, which puts Bradley in an easier position to get his defensive linemen to do what he wants them to do.
“It’s easier to sell fundamentals. It makes it easier to sell all the little things you’re trying to sell because they want to be coached. They want to learn. They’re excited to get better,” Bradley said.
Through the first six spring practices, the focus has been on basic technique and installation of Gibson’s scheme. Gibson has vast experience coaching in the 3-3-5 and 3-4 schemes, while Bradley has knowledge of the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.
West Virginia is blending everything together in order to create a multiple defense.
“It can be a four-front, three-front or even a five-front. It can be whatever you want it to be. That’s the beauty of the system,” Bradley said. “One of the things that will make our scheme successful is if the players can learn all of the different techniques they have to learn. This is a different system in a lot of ways.”
While Bradley was at Penn State, he worked with great schematic minds, but as he said, it wasn’t the reason for all of the success in State College.
“It’s not the X’s and the O’s, it’s the Jimmys and the Joes. We had good players and people (who) bought into our system, we had good guys coaching them, (and) we had a thing going there where the players believed,” Bradley said.
His task through the end of the spring is to get a group of West Virginia players who had three defensive line coaches in four years and four coordinators in four years to believe in the system he and Gibson are teaching now.
West Virginia will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium.