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Nebraska vs. Iowa, 11/24/17

Nebraska running back Jaylin Bradley (33) runs over Iowa defensive backs Wes Dvorak (1) and Matt Hankins during a game last season at Memorial Stadium.

ERIC GREGORY, Journal Star

Jaylin Bradley would have made the long trip from Bellevue to Orlando, Florida, to play college football for coach Scott Frost and Central Florida. They were in his top four schools, the running back said.

Of course, Bradley ended up at Nebraska. But now that Frost came to Nebraska in the offseason, Bradley is still going to get a chance to play for a coach and in an offense that he’d considered leaving the state for.

“I’m pretty glad Coach Frost came here,” Bradley said after spring practice Saturday.

A monster senior season at Bellevue West — he led the Thunderbirds to a 13-0 record and averaged 9.0 yards per carry — saw Bradley’s recruiting stock rise. Once he met the needed academic requirements, Nebraska offered him a scholarship.

Bradley said his top four schools were Nebraska, UCF, Iowa and South Dakota State. Ryan Held recruited Bradley when he was coaching at UCF, and now he’s Bradley’s position coach at Nebraska.

Why was UCF in his top four?

“I had a good connection with Coach Frost and Coach Held, and then their type of offense I felt like fit me more,” Bradley said. “It’s the same offense I ran in high school, and I knew I had a pretty good season my senior year.”

That “pretty good” season included Bradley rushing for 2,915 yards and 50 touchdowns. He helped the Thunderbirds average nearly 500 yards of offense per game. He scored five touchdowns in the state championship game.

Bradley played as a true freshman at Nebraska last season, rushing 24 times for 93 yards and having four receptions for 38 yards. His biggest game came in a win against Purdue, when he had 73 all-purpose yards.

But now he’s looking for more in Frost’s face-paced spread offense. He likes that the running backs will be running more pass routes.

“It really opens up the field for a running back,” said Bradley of the offense. “Especially all the different formations you can do to get open. And once you get open it’s just you and a (defensive back), and I feel like I can make them miss.”

From his experience last season, Bradley said he gained more motivation to try and be the No. 1 running back. To do that he’s competing against seniors Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo and junior college transfer Greg Bell. And then in the fall the Huskers will add freshman running back Maurice Washington.

The new running backs arriving on campus has made Bradley want to push harder in the weight room and on the field.

“I just got to work harder than everybody else,” Bradley said. “That’s what Coach Held was telling me. He really wants me to push myself, so I’ve been asking for extra reps and doing extra things in the weight room with (head strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval).”

As he transitioned from high school to college last season, Bradley said there were times he got caught and tackled when he felt like he shouldn’t have. He asked Duval to help him get faster, and he feels like that’s already happened.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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