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April 10, 2013Carl Bradford isn't shy about sharing his personal goals for the 2013 Arizona State football season.
"My goal is to break the (sacks) record here and that's Terrell Suggs," the 6-foot-1, 241 pound junior devil backer said. "He had 22 and I'm going for 24. That's my ultimate goal. With God in my heart, anything is possible. I know I can put my mind to and I'm not going to stop until I reach that goal."
Suggs actually had 24 sacks as a Sun Devil in 2002 though, which isn't only a school record but the FBS single season mark (sacks were not officially NCAA stats until 2000). So, Bradford will have to bump up his goal a notch unless he's willing to share the mark.
He'll also have to finish with more sacks than teammate Will Sutton, who just happens to be a consensus All-American senior defensive tackle. Last season, Sutton had a league-best 13 sacks on his way to becoming Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12.
Bradford, meanwhile, had 11.5 sacks in only his sophomore season. Combined, no FBS school in the country returns two players with more sacks or tackles for loss -- Sutton had 23.5 and Bradford 20.5 last season.
One of the most commonly uttered football words used by ASU coach Todd Graham is "dynamic," so it's no surprise that he and others around the program have taken to calling Bradford and Sutton the "dynamic duo."
It's a befitting phrase given the success of the two players, who frequently line up next to one another. And while age and accomplishments necessitates Sutton being Batman to Bradford's Robin, don't think the Boy Wonder of the tandem is willing to take a backseat as evidenced by his stated goals.
"I love lining up next to him every play," Bradford said of Sutton. "I know his time here is limited because it's his senior year so I try to learn all of his knowledge and that'll hopefully help me. He's a great player on and off the field and for our leader to come back like that is huge for us.
"We try to target the weakest links and set playmakers up to make plays and have everybody do their assignment and I think it's going to be a real hit this year."
New position coach Jackie Shipp has a checklist of things all defensive lineman can improve on that includes get off, leverage, hand skills and footwork, and he's trying to squeeze every ounce of ability from all his players, including the stars.
"We've got some good players, we've got some really good players, he said. "But let me tell you they can be a lot better. They're nowhere near what they can be. They've done some good things here but there's a lot of room to get better and that's why I was brought here. So that's what I've got to get done. Lets just be more consistent with our fundamentals and technique and effort."
Shipp said he's thrilled with Graham's scheme and philosophy because of how it sets defensive linemen up to be motivated and productive in the way they tend to define it.
"I like it because he puts the linemen in a position to attack a gap and make plays and get tackles for loss and sacks," Shipp said. "That's what you want to do as a linemen. That is a great scheme to recruit to. Think if you're a 17 year old or 18 year old lineman who has a chance to do those types of things and attack that front and make a lot of plays. You're getting in the backfield and getting a chance to make the plays where the crowd stands up. So lets just be honest about it, that's going to only help get more quality recruits to want to come play here. Now don't get me wrong, they have responsibilities, they have assignments to take care of, but he's letting them attack the line of scrimmage instead of playing east and west and catching."
For his part, Graham is encouraging Bradford and Sutton to do all they can as teammates to promote a self sustaining culture of success, and that is what he believes will translate into their ability to accomplish such loft goals.
"I think if they'll take the attitude to improve," Graham said. "That's what I told them. Who is Carl competing against out here. You see anybody that's going to play ahead of him? Who is Will competing against? That's the challenge. Saying we're going to have 20-something sacks and doing it is two different things. That's the thing we've challenged them with. They've got to set the standard. I'll be very honest with you, I've been very pleased with Will and how he's taken a vocal (role). Today he got after the second team for not tackling. Those are the things I'm challenging these guys to do and I think they're a little leery to do it but you can see I'm going to support that. He's earned the right to do that and it's important that our players lead players and not just coaches leading.
"Carl is obviously a guy that I think has unbelievable -- the potential of those guys, they're the most dynamic sack duo in the country so if they don't lead the country in sacks I think it's been a disappointing season. Their standard is extremely high. What that top end is I have no idea. We just want that to be the best in the country."
Lorig assumes full special teams duties
In Graham's first season in Tempe, ASU's special teams were coached by committee. Not so in 2013, as the second-year coach has turned the full responsibility over to cornerbacks coach Joe Lorig.
Having never worked for Graham in the past, Lorig's first year was spent to some degree, according to his boss, just adjusting to his personal tempo. That transition is now complete and Graham wanted Lorig to have an expanded role because he's been pleased by his job performance.
"I'm usually very demanding and want to show and demonstrate the pace from which we do things and I think sometimes it's kind of hard to understand that and people aren't used to that," Graham said. "We have one purpose and one identity here. I could that that he was uncomfortable. But he's done a tremendous job and obviously I've got a tremendous about of respect for him. He's got the No. 1 challenge on this staff and that's to get this team to have the No. 1 special teams in this conference. That is the only path to winning this conference. We've got to play championship defense, we will score points and take care of the ball and I'm telling you special teams is big and last year we changed that. Joe has taken over every facet of that. We didn't do that last year we divided it up. I could tell he was somewhat uncomfortable but I'll tell you he was one of the best hires I've had."