WHEELING - West Virginia football's motto of "Spot the Ball" under then-coach Rich Rodriguez was considered innovative at the time, but we're way past that. So far in fact, that officials barely have time to do just that without feeling the wrath of an offensive coordinator who wants to go as fast as the human body will allow, maybe even faster.
Freshly hired Mountaineers senior associate head coach Tom Bradley has seen the slow evolution of the college game during his more than 30 years of devising defenses. In Wheeling on Thursday for a gathering in his honor put together by friend and Wheeling Hospital CEO Ron Violi at Figaretti's Restaurant, Bradley said these newly designed offenses don't bother him, even if the ability to somehow stop them is what keeps the paychecks coming in.
"A lot of people want to slow it down, but I don't think that's going to happen,'' said Bradley, who spent 33 years on Joe Paterno's staff at Penn State. ''That's OK. It doesn't matter to me because that's part of the challenge.
"People still forget it's a game of blocking and tackling.
"If you're going to be a good defensive football team you better be fundamentally sound, because that is what is going to end up winning it for you in the end.''
Bradley believes we haven't seen the last of the power running game, though. Football, he said, has a way of constantly reinventing itself.
"Football is cyclical and eventually it's going to come back where someone lines up with a big fullback and starts pounding you,'' Bradley predicted. ''You watch ... somebody is going to come back and get in an old-fashioned I-formation and get a couple tight ends and hammer it. Then you'll have to get a real Mike (middle) linebacker again.
"Right now everyone is kind of downsizing on the perimeter because the Mike linebacker a lot of places has gotten extinct because you've got to be able to play the pass.''
Joining the Team
Let's be honest here for a second. A guy with Bradley's resume doesn't come along very often at West Virginia, a place where traditionally young up-and-comers have signed on to make a name for themselves.
Really, if he decided that is what he wanted to do, Bradley could be running the defense of a number of NFL teams right this second.
"I like college and I enjoy what I am doing,'' Bradley said. ''I think a lot of things intrigued me about it.
"I am familiar with the West Virginia football and the tradition. I've gotten to know Coach (Dana) Holgorsen the last couple of years and know Oliver Luck ... I actually played against Oliver.
"I like the fact the state of West Virginia is passionate about the Mountaineers. They love their football team and that is what I like to be associated with.''
Putting on the Gear
It may seem like it's been forever, but the reality is Penn State and West Virginia had a pretty good football rivalry going not all that long ago. Bradley not only coached for the Nittany Lions, but he also played for them.
"I come from a place where West Virginia fans didn't embrace Penn State. Then again, I understand what West Virginia football is all about,'' Bradley said. "The first day you put that new gear on it's a little bit interesting.
"But you know, it all goes back to coaching.''
Few know better how to do just that than Tom Bradley.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org