Arizona State junior Carl Bradford has made no public comment on whether he will return to the school for his senior year or enter the NFL Draft but his head coach certainly thinks he will play another season in Tempe.
"I fully anticipate him being back," Todd Graham said following Thursday's bowl practice. "That's his decision. At the end of the day, he can do what he wants to do, but I would be shocked if he didn't decide to come back."
Bradford, who graduated this week, earned second-team all-league honors after collecting 55 tackles including 18 for loss with 8.5 sacks, tied for the team lead. He won the team award for best defensive linemen, though perhaps that's because senior defensive tackle Will Sutton won the team's most valuable player honors.
If Bradford does return, Sutton may be a big part of the decision according to Graham. Sutton earned his second straight Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Pac-12 this year and was also voted by his peers as the league's top defensive player.
"You look at what Will did and how it's benefited him, I think you'll see that on draft day," Graham said. "Where he was projected and where he's projected now is night and day."
Graham said Sutton improved from a maturation standpoint, became more of a leader, and went from being a likely mid round selection to an early round pick by returning, and Bradford will be able to do those things as well.
"I think he knows his development, his maturity, all those things are things that are going to better him to be here another eight months," Graham said.
"Every indication he's given me is he intends on being here."
According to Graham, Bradford has filed paperwork with the NFL advisory committee to receive a better idea of his draft prospects. It's a standard practice, and if Bradford is projected to be a first-round pick, Graham said he'd encourage him to go. But he doesn't anticipate that being the case.
"I can tell you this, I'm straight honest," Graham said. "If his grade comes back and it's a first round (grade), we'll have a going away party. It's not just about what our needs are here."
Bradford's return would be a significant development for a defense that is set to lose its three starting defensive linemen, three of four starting defensive backs and two starting linebackers.