When Jaylin Bradley was going through the recruiting process as a record-breaking 2017 running back prospect out of Bellevue (Neb.) West, his top two choices were home state Nebraska and Central Florida.
Bradley ended up staying home and choosing the Huskers, even if the style of offense then-UCF head coach Scott Frost ran was an ideal fit for his skill set.
As it turned out, Bradley would end up getting his dream scenario less than a year later when Frost and his entire coaching staff took over in Lincoln.
“I was like, ‘Yes!’” Bradley said of when he learned Frost and Co. would be his new coaches. “If I would have went to UCF I probably would have transferred back (to Nebraska), but the fact that me staying home and him coming here, it was all God’s plan.”
Not only had Bradley started to develop a strong relationship with Frost during his recruitment, he quickly realized that Frost’s offense was “almost identical” to the system he thrived in at Bellevue West under head coach Michael Huffman.
Bradley ended his high school career as one of the most productive players in the state’s history, highlighted by a record-setting senior year where he rushed for 2,915 yards and 50 touchdowns (averaging 9.0 yards per carry) and caught 19 passes for 238 yards and a score.
His play helped lead the Thunderbirds to a perfect 13-0 record and a 2016 Class A state championship.
Because of how successful he was in Bellevue West’s offense, Bradley said Huffman encouraged him to play for Frost at Central Florida.
Bradley obviously ended up choosing the Huskers, and while he saw immediate action as a true freshman last year - rushing 24 times for 93 yards and catching four passes for 38 yards - his playing time was limited at best.
But now with a fresh start in an offense tailored to his strengths, Bradley sees a wide-open window of opportunity this spring.
“I think it fits a lot better,” Bradley said of NU’s new offense. “A lot better than last year’s, because this is the same style I had in high school that I really excelled at. So I was pretty excited when Coach Frost came here…
“It opens up the field more. I like to catch the ball too, so I like that… I think I’m really shifty and I can make guys miss. When I get out lined up as an ‘R’ (receiver), I feel like I can catch the ball pretty well.”
Bradley’s excitement was furthered even more after a strong winter with new strength coach Zach Duval. Not only is he up to 6-0, 205, from the 189 pounds he weighed as a freshman, Bradley also feels faster and more explosive than ever.
“I’ve noticed a big change, especially in my speed,” Bradley said. “That was one thing I asked Coach Duval if he could work with me, was with my speed. He’s helped me get my squat better and we’ve done jumping techniques and stuff like that. I noticed like the third practice of spring ball I felt like I was faster.”
Running backs coach Ryan Held said Bradley has been exactly the fit in their offense that they had hoped when they recruited out of high school.
Held said Bradley still has work to do in terms of his footwork, his “aiming point”, and getting his eyes where they need to be both before and after the snap. But as far as pure potential, Held thinks the sky is the limit for Bradley.
“I really like Jaylin Bradley,” Held said. “I think he’s doing a really good job. I think he fits this offense, and when we were at UCF we liked him. He’s a longer, bigger kid, he’s got good hands, he’s picking it up, he’s engaged, he’s fluid, he’s smooth.
“I think Jaylin Bradley has a bright future here. I like where he’s at, honestly.”