Camp notes: Shaun Bradley emerging as a ‘vocal leader’ on defense

Temple lost three starting linebackers and Shaun Bradley could fill one of those spots this season.

Sophomore linebacker Shaun Bradley (center), tackles junior running back Ryquell Armstead during practice on April 4 at Chodoff Field. EVAN EASTERLING | THE TEMPLE NEWS

Shaun Bradley arrived at Temple last year with a different mentality than he had at Rancocas Valley High School. The sophomore realized he needed to change his mindset in order to continue his development as a football player

In the first week of preseason camp, Bradley’s leadership skills are starting to blossom, and the coaches have noticed.

“More than just his physical skillset, he’s talented,” linebackers coach Andrew Thacker said. “He’s got an ability to run, he’s got an ability to strike, we talk about contact speed at the linebacker position, we talk about change of direction. But more so than anything I’ve been really, really impressed with the intangible part of Shaun. To be a [sophomore] and to not have the amount of starter game reps that he’s had, he’s becoming a vocal leader on our defense.”

“We talk about setting the standard, the way they carry themselves on and off the field, he’s becoming one of those guys,” he added. “When we get to the point where it’s player-led, it’s not coach-led as much, he’s one of those types of guys that just kind of has the charisma, has the juice, has the energy, has the presence to take hold of that group.”

Thacker added Bradley has been playing more of the Mike linebacker spot, where he’s been playing with the first unit and setting up the defense.

Bradley played in 11 games last year as a freshman, recording six tackles and a forced fumble.

Bradley said he didn’t know what position he was going to play initially. He arrived as a safety, and he also played running back at Rancocas Valley High School in New Jersey, where he rushed for 1,467 yards and 22 touchdowns and earned first-team all-county.

Temple lost its starting linebackers,  Avery Williams, Jarred Alwan and Stephaun Marshall, to the NFL and graduation. They accounted for 20 percent of Temple’s total tackles in 2016 and started a combined 79 games during their careers.

The trio isn’t with the program anymore, but they passed along their knowledge to the young linebackers.

“Steph, Alwan and Avery were tremendous leaders,” Bradley said. “They took us all in as soon as we got here and basically bred us to become leaders and to step it up.

“Those guys taught us the nuances of the game,” redshirt sophomore Chapelle Russell said. “They teach you thing that the playbook can’t teach you. Like film study, the techniques, body posture gestures, all those kind of thing to look for on the field.”

‘Above the line’

Coach Geoff Collins evaluates whether his players are “above the line,” meaning they’re talented enough to see significant playing time.

Thacker said it would be ideal to have six “above the line” linebackers by the time the season starts, so the Owls can rotate two units.

Bradley said sophomore linebackers William Kwenkeu and Sam Franklin have been practicing alongside him in the first defensive unit.

All three sophomore linebackers haven’t started a college game. The only linebackers that have started competing for the spots are redshirt junior Jared Folks and Russell.

While the sophomore linebackers don’t have much in-game experience, Bradley believes their athletic abilities will help them early in the season.

“We’re still learning the defense, we’re continuing to grow every day, we’re getting better, we’re learning something new and it’s all starting to come together,” he said.

Russell is nearly 100 percent healthy

When Russell went down in practice and screamed last November, his teammates could tell what happened. He tore his ACL in the week leading up to Temple’s game against Tulane.

“Everybody said they know the ACL scream,” Russell said. “So like my grunt when I fell, everybody said, ‘Aw, man.’ I was hoping for the best and when I got the news, I just, you know, God has a plan for me. So I just took it as a blessing.”

In 10 games last season, he racked up 25 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Russell said he is about 90-95 percent healthy. He added he has been cleared to gradually progress into contact and will start tackling in practice next week.

Playing week one against the University of Notre Dame is realistic, Russell said.

Russell rehabbed with senior kicker Austin Jones, who tore an ACL last season against Memphis.

Russell’s knee was rehabbing at a faster rate than Jones’, even though he tore his more than one month before Russell did.

“It was kind of like motivation, seeing me progress faster than him and just being able to do the things I was able to do, I’m just like ‘Wow, things are looking good for me,’” Russell said. “Some days have been up-and-down for me, but I’m always bouncing right back.”

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