Nebraska reached into its own backyard to find its running back of the future, as the Huskers landed a verbal commitment from Bellevue West running back Jaylin Bradley. Bradley is coming off an incredible senior season in which he rushed for 2,915 yards and 50 touchdowns while leading the Thunderbirds to a 13-0 record and a Class A championship. Bradley is listed as a 2-star recruit with a 75.8 rating on Hail Varsity’s composite.
Who Else Was Interested
Bradley remained under the radar throughout his senior season despite an incredible year in which he cemented himself as the best player in the state. The reason why became known following a stellar state championship performance, as Bradley had some academic issues that needed to be cleaned up before receiving an offer. Upon becoming qualified, Bradley saw a rapid increase in recruiting attention from Nebraska along with Iowa, Central Florida and Wyoming. Despite strong pushes from those three schools, Bradley decided to stay in-state.
Bradley measures in at 6-foot and 180 pounds. He has an extremely lean build for a running back at this point, as he is currently built more like a free safety. Bradley still has plenty of room to fill out in his upper body, but he will likely need a redshirt season in order to become physically ready to compete in the Big Ten. When Bradley is finished filling out, I would expect him to measure in at 6-foot and in the 205-210 pound range.
His agility/change of direction: When looking at running back prospects, you always look for one thing that running backs can hang their hat on. For Bradley, that is his agility and footwork. Bradley has amazingly light feet as a running back, as he is able to stop and change direction without losing speed, something Nebraska hasn’t had on its offense since Ameer Abdullah graduated. Bradley’s agility and footwork allows him to get unblocked yardage, something that can help keep an offense stay on schedule even if the offensive line is not getting a consistent push.
His open-field running ability: Bradley is absolute magic in the open field, as he is able to stop and start in space with the best of them. Bradley has a long-striding running style when in the open field that almost appears to lull defenders to sleep, before chopping his feet and putting a move on them, allowing him to slip by and move on down the field. This open-field ability will make Bradley a valuable part of Nebraska’s offense, as Danny Langsdorf loves getting the ball out to his playmakers in space.
His power: Bradley runs with surprising strength for being only 180 pounds, as he is able to consistently shake off arm tackles and continue to gain positive yardage. This was on full display in Bradley’s dazzling performance against Omaha North in the Nebraska state title game, as he broke over 15 tackles on his way to a 249 rushing yard performance. Bradley’s tackle-breaking ability will only improve as he gains weight and adds strength in Nebraska’s weight lifting program.
His receiving ability: Bradley saw his role on the Thunderbird offense expand his senior season, as he became a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield. Bradley showed soft hands and tremendous vision in the open field on his way to averaging 12.5 yards per catch as a senior. Bradley’s ability as a receiver makes him a perfect fit for Nebraska’s offense, as Langsdorf loves getting his running backs involved in the screen game.
His weight: This is my main concern with Bradley at this point, as you simply don’t see a lot of 180 pound backs playing in the Big Ten. Bradley will need to devote himself to the training table and the weight room in order to get his weight over 200 pounds. Only then could I see Bradley being able to hold up to an entire season as a Big Ten running back.
Lowering his pad level: Bradley has an upright running style, as he keeps his shoulders high throughout the play and only lowers them at the last moment before contact. While this style has certainly worked for him in high school I would like to see him work on running lower and playing behind his pads a bit more. Playing with lower pad levels will allow Bradley to hit the hole harder and run with more power, making him a more effective back in short yardage situations.
Become more assertive at the line of scrimmage: Bradley has tremendous agility and wiggle as a running back, but there are times when he gets too caught up dancing and doesn’t just put his foot in the ground and get going up field. While this method has worked for Bradley at the high school level, he will need to learn to put his foot in the ground and go at the collegiate level. This is something that Bradley should improve on after adjusting to the increased competition level in fall camp.
I’ve been on the Bradley bandwagon since his junior year and I was thrilled to see Nebraska finally jump in on the talented Nebraskan. Bradley is not an immediate plug and play running back, as he still needs to add weight and strength in order to hold up over a full season. Expect Bradley to redshirt in order to gain strength and not waste a season behind the logjam at running back. After his redshirt season, expect Bradley to turn heads as a change of pace back behind Tre Bryant and Devine Ozigbo. Great job by Reggie Davis to stick with Bradley through his academic troubles, as he is now being rewarded with the best in-state running back prospect since Danny Woodhead.
College Comparison: South Florida Running Back Marlon Mack
Pro Comparison: Atlanta Falcons Running Back Tevin Coleman