Bradley, WVU defense settling into new roles

PARKERSBURG-For former-Penn State interim head football coach Tom Bradley developing a rapport with the players at his latest stop-West Virginia University-has been easier than developing an understanding of the conference (Big 12) that the Mountaineers will compete in during the upcoming 2014 season.

“In the Big Ten, you knew what the turnover was going to be like for each team, unless they hadn’t been on your schedule for a couple of years,” Bradley said following Saturday’s practice at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field. “You kind of had an idea. I don’t have an idea on some of these teams in the Big 12, besides watching some film on them.

“I’m going to get caught up with that. That is some of the work I have planned for the summer time.”

For now Bradley is busy integrating his knowledge into first-year defensive coordinator’s Tony Gibson’s system.

“It has been a good assessment. As we go through spring, I haven’t really had a chance to see how they’re going to at it when they’re tired and all of those things. I’ll be anxious to see how we come out and practice tomorrow (Sunday). It’s the first time we’ve had back-to-back practices. I’ll have a better assessment as we go through the start of summer camp.”

The defense, which was ranked as one of the worst in NCAA Division I and near the bottom of the Big 12 during WVU’s 4-8 campaign, has had its moments during the spring and showed signs of being a much-improved unit during Saturday’s two-hour practice in the Mountain State’s capital.

One of the big reasons for the defense’s improved play is Gibson’s insistence on keeping things simple.

“We want our players to react, not think,” said Gibson. “We’ve simplified a lot of things and we’ve really stressed communication with the players.”

Two things that have junior linebacker Isaiah Bruce smiling a lot these days.

“Coach Gibson has really accepted his role,” said Bruce. “He’s working more with the linebackers, and it’s been a huge plus for us to know how he sees us play. He’s calling a lot of plays that we want to run, and that has us excited to play. It’s really fun.”

One of the changes WVU’s newest defensive coordinator has made is move Bruce, who finished with only 43 tackles and no sacks last season after a freshman campaign that witnessed the 232-pounder register 94 stops, to the middle.

Mountaineer fans are hoping the changes made by Gibson and his staff this spring will help the Mountaineers win more games in 2014.

  • Looking ahead to the 2015 season, Director of Athletics Oliver Luck announced on Thursday that WVU will play Georgia State. The Panthers will join Liberty and Maryland as non-conference foes for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia leads the series, 1-0, after a 41-7 victory last season.