Temple linebackers coach Andrew Thacker’s eyes light up when asked to assess linebacker Shaun Bradley.
“He’s an athletic dude,” Thacker said of the 6-foot-1, 220-pound sophomore from South Jersey’s Rancocas Valley High.
When anyone speaks about Bradley, he usually begins by discussing his freakish athletic ability. Bradley represents the new wave of linebackers at Temple.
Gone are the three senior starters from a year ago. Avery Williams Stephaun Marshall, and Jarred Alwan were known for their toughness and intelligence more than their athletic ability.
If the Owls would begin play today, the likely starters at linebacker would be Bradley and fellow sophomores Sam Franklin and Will Kwenkeu. All three are much more athletic than the trio that manned the starting spots last year.
Bradley showed his athletic skills by doubling as a running back and rushing for 1,467 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior at Rancocas Valley. His eyes light up when asked about the prospect of getting a few carries for the Owls.
“I love having the ball in my hands, and whenever I get a chance and they offer me the ball, I will do it,” Bradley says. “I think it is fun.”
Yet he will presumably have the most fun playing middle linebacker. Bradley might be undersized and inexperienced for the position, but he has the ability to outrun any early mistakes. “I don’t think there is anybody who will be able to outrun me,” said Bradley, confident that he can chase down even the fleetest of running backs.
Bradley wasn’t a highly recruited player coming to Temple He said schools such as Wagner and Rhode Island were recruiting him.
He graduated high school in 2015, but Temple brought him in as a grayshirt as attended classes in the fall of 2015 at Burlington County College, then counted as part of the Owls’ 2016 recruiting class.
The one key for Bradley is staying healthy. A training camp injury sidelined him for the first two games last season. Bradley saw most of his action last year on special teams, He said he was banged up the first day of this year’s training camp but is feeling fine now.
In addition to playing running back, Bradley was a safety in high school, so learning the middle linebacker spot is an ongoing process. It helps to be able to outrun some of his mistakes.
“It is more than just his physical skill set,” Thacker said. “He is talented. He has the ability to run, the ability to strike.”
That is forte of the entire linebacking unit.
Redshirt sophomore Chapelle Russell, returning from an ACL injury, feels he will be ready for the Sept. 2 opener at Notre Dame. The player with the most experience, Jared Folks, who started five games last season, missed spring workouts with an injury and is behind Bradley at the middle linebacker spot. Redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Atoki is former safety who fits the mold of this athletic unit.
With so many young players, Bradley has taken over the leadership role. “He is becoming a vocal leader on our defense,” Thacker said.
It’s still early, but right now Bradley is one of the tone-setters on this young defense.
“He is playing fast and we feel if you can play fast and play with confidence, you can take care of yourself and you will be a playmaker out there,” Thacker said. “He is getting to the point where he is taking care of himself and bringing people with him.”