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Bradford fills a big need at NGU

Posted: February 6, 2014 2:44 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.

One of the biggest problems which North Greenville University had on defense last season was slowing down the running game. In 11 contests last fall, opponents averaged nearly 230 yards on the ground against the Crusaders.
It should have come as no surprise that finding run-stoppers was a priority when NGU head coach Jeff Farrington and his assistants hit the recruiting trail.
After a whirlwind romance, the Crusaders zeroed in on their man and found him in Camden High defensive tackle Delton Bradford. On Wednesday, in a signing ceremony held inside the school’s library, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Bradford signed a National Letter of Intent with the Division II program.
Bradford’s signing gave North Greenville an immediate presence along the interior of the defensive line.
“North Greenville said they had trouble defending the run because they weren’t big enough inside,” said Camden head coach Jimmy Neal. “Of course, Delton fills that bill.”
Up until the middle of his junior season, Bradford was a starter on the offensive front for the Bulldogs. He started as a freshman in the AAA state playoff game with Berkeley. In 2012, as CHS developed more depth along both lines, the Dogs had a more pressing need on the defensive side of the football and in the second half of the season, Bradford was moved to defensive tackle where he, most times, lined up over the opposing team’s center.
The shift, said Bradford, who is also Camden’s starting center on the basketball hardwood, was one he relished.
“I really did want to play defense,” he said after his signing. “Playing defense, you have to be a lot meaner and have to use your hands more and be able to get off blocks. I liked playing defense more than I did playing offense.”
Neal, though, said he would not rule out the Crusaders giving Bradford a look on offense before all is said and done.
“Everybody who recruited him thought Delton  could play offense or defense,” said the CHS head coach. “It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Bradford, who drew interest from Wake Forest and had offers from several NCAA FCS programs as well as Division II schools, said playing defense opened more doors for him in terms of college. “It helped me a lot. A lot of college coaches, a lot more schools, were looking at me for defense,” he said.
When it came time to select a school to be his collegiate home, North Greenville turned Bradford’s head during his official visit. He committed shortly thereafter to the school located in Tigertown. His decision came down more to academics than it did football.
“I really thought, education-wise,” he said, “that it was the better school, overall. That’s how I made my decision.”
In his lone season as a defense-first player at Camden, Bradford’s 14 tackles for loss led the team. He made 53 tackles --- 35 solo ---, had seven quarterback hurries, one sack and picked off a pass which he returned 17 yards.
“He had an outstanding year for us. We’re excited for him,” Neal said in looking back on Bradford’s senior campaign. “Delton’s going to really grow in that position. With Delton’s being so large, being able to move and being able to plug a gap, that will help (NGU).
“He’s going to be an outstanding player for them.”
While Bradford brings plenty of size to the table, he also has good footwork as one college recruiter noticed while taking in a recent Camden basketball game. Bradford said playing two sports helps him in the other. In this case, basketball, helped him on the football field.
“It helps a lot,” he said of playing basketball. “It helps with my agility and basketball helps with my footwork.
“It helps so much in football with your quickness and being able to get off your blocks. It helps your conditioning. In college, you’re going to have to do more conditioning than you do in basketball.”
When asked about the biggest difference between playing high school football and making the transition to the college game, Bradford smiled. He talked about his visit to Newberry College and watching an offensive center bench-press 400 pounds.
Seeing that, Bradford said, was an eye-opener for him as to what he could expect to see when he lines up on defense side of the football in college.
“I said, ‘Ah.’ There are a lot of strong guys (in college),” he said when he recalled what he said in Newberry’s weight room. “I’m looking forward to the competition.
“There’s more lifting weights and a lot more conditioning than we do in high school. I really have to step up my game,” he said of the challenge which awaits him at NGU.
Bradford said he expects to line up over the center in North Greenville’s 3-4 defensive alignment and he knows the offensive linemen at this level will be stronger than the ones he faced in high school in games and on the practice field. Plaing against that type of competition on a daily basis, Neal said, will make Bradford a better, more complete player.
“I think he’s going to be outstanding. He’s going to get better and better up there,” Neal said. “There will be guys who will push him in games and during practice. Delton’s going to have a lot more competition there. I think he’s really going to blossom at North Greenville.”
Neal’s thoughts were echoed by North Greenville defensive line coach Dustin Ramsey who looks forward to the All-Region 4-AAA player joining his unit come August.
“Delton brings size and athleticism to the defensive line,” Ramsey said after having received Bradford’s signed National Letter of Intent on Wednesday afternoon.
“He will push the upperclassmen and his competitive nature will make him a factor.  We are very excited to have him and look forward to big things from him in the fall.”
As for Bradford, whose basketball Bulldogs are in the battle for a post-season berth in the AAA state playoffs, he said he is looking forward to heading to North Greenville University and beginning the next phase of his young life.
“It’s going to be real big,” he said of going from high school to college. “There will be more people in the stands .... I’m just looking forward to playing for North Greenville.
“I love this transition. I think I picked the right team to play for and, the right college.”

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