UTC at Eastern Kentucky
Russ Huesman knows a thing or two about defense.
His “Stonewall Defense” helped Richmond win the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision national title with a clamp-down effort against Montana at Finley Stadium.
Huesman also served as the defensive coordinator at William & Mary from 1996-97. His 1996 defense was ranked second nationally, allowing just 231.8 yards per game, and led by future NFL standout Darren Sharper.
So, the veteran coach knows what it’s like to work up a defensive game plan for talented receivers. It’s also obvious that he recognizes how difficult it would be to go aganst a receiver like his own Joel Bradford, who causes sleepless nights for defensive coordinators throughout the Southern Conference, and beyond.
“I would be scared of him,” Huesman said.
What makes the 6-foot, 165-pound Bradford, who prepped at McCallie and started the 2011 season as a consensus preseason All-American, so hard to defend?
“The bottom line is he can run,” Huesman said. “I don’t care how small he is, he can run. He can come out of breaks and has a knack to get open. Anybody you play, whether they’re small or whatever, if they can run you’re a little bit nervous.”
As a sophomore, Bradford played in the secondary but shifted back to wide receiver for the 2010 season. He caught 81 passes for 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns. He had a career-best day against Furman with 15 catches for 274 yards. Earlier that season, Bradford had 11 receptions for 254 yards against Eastern Kentucky, the Mocs’ opponent Saturday in Richmond, Ky.
Defenses have tried just about every scheme imaginable to control Bradford, but nothing seems to work.
In last week’s 38-17 upset of No. 10 Jacksonville State, Bradford tied his career-high with 15 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown. The 162 yards is the best FCS performance of the season and his 47-yard touchdown reception from a 17-17 tie late in the second quarter. He was selected the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week.
Mocs offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield takes steps to keep opponents from double teaming Bradford, Huesman said.
“It’s hard to double team Joel because ‘Satt’ and what the offensive guys are doing with him,” Huesman said. “He may be here, he may be there and all of a sudden we may get in those bunch sets and he’s the outside guy or the inside guy and we might have him on the bubbles. No way you can double him when we throw six bubbles to him and every time he caught it (against Jacksonville State) he got 6 or 7 yards. They’re doing a great job getting him all over the place.”
Huesman was asked at his weekly press luncheon if it’s hard not to take Bradford and quarterback B.J. Coleman for granted.
“Every time I see B.J. drop back to pass I think it’s a completion,” the coach said. “Maybe that’s taking him for granted, and Joel is the same way. You do take them for granted. Both of them have a lot of ability and do it naturally. It doesn’t take a lot of effort from them.”
Coleman is second in the SoCon with 235.0 yards per game, third in total offense (243.0) and sixth in pass efficiency (135.4).
Bradford is second in catches per game (9.5) and third in receiving yards per game (104.5).
They are the Mocs’ primary offensive weapons.
Another attribute for Coleman, a senior who also played at McCallie, is his calm on-field demeanor.
He even has a soothing effect on coaches who might exchange heated words on the sideline.
“He almost had to break up a fight between me and ‘Satt’ right before the half,” Huesman said. “B.J. is saying, ‘Whoa, coaches. Settle down here, fellas.’ He was cool, calm and collected and we’re out there fuming. I was screaming at ‘Satt’ and ‘Satt’ was screaming at some lady on the fifth row, I think. He was so mad at one point he couldn’t call a play. B.J. settled us down.”
Huesman said the sideline argument was about time management.
“Coaching is nuts,” Huesman said. “Everywhere we’ve been, we scream and yell. During the game everybody hates everybody. But if you take it off the field, you’re a pitiful coach. You have to separate what happens during those sixty minutes with what happens in the office, in your social life and day-to-day interactions with your staff. I was hugging ‘Satt’ after the game.”
Area ties at EKU
Seven area players are on the Eastern Kentucky roster, including former Red Bank High School standout Jeremy Caldwell.
Caldwell, a 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound defensive back and the only Ohio Valley Conference player on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list, currently ranks second among all active FCS players with 13 career interceptions.
In 2010, Caldwell returned two kickoffs, one punt and one interception for a touchdown. He led the OVC and was fourth nationally with seven interceptions in 2009, was the 2010 CSN National Special Teams Player of the Year (kick and punt returns) and set an EKU single-season record for kickoff return average (33.7 yards) last season.
Caldwell’s 88-yard kickoff return in last week’s 28-24 win over Missouri State was the third of his career.
Former Brainerd players Orlandus Harris (wide receiver) and and Deno Montgomery (defensive back), Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s LaGreg Burns (running back), Ringgold’s Devin Gainer (defensive lineman) Bradley Central’s Tucker Bolton (defensive lineman) and Dalton’s Floyd Coffey (linebacker) also are members of the team.
Out of action
Huesman said senior nose tackle Nick Davison will not play against Eastern Kentucky due to an injury. Tailback J.J. Jackson will also miss the game, but Huesman said he’s hopeful that Jackson will be in the lineup against Appalachian State on Sept. 24.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com)