Sep 2, 2010, 4:00 PM EST
The following feature will be printed in the Delaware Blue Hens’ Gameday Magazine. Take a read below.
Anthony Bratton: Delaware’s Terror in the Secondary
By: John Stark, University of Delaware Athletics Media Relations
Imagine being an opposing quarterback standing under center, looking over the defensive line, through the linebackers and down the field at the secondary and seeing what could very well be one of the best units in the country at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
It’s a sight opposing quarterbacks will have to get used to all season long, seeing a group of talented seniors that is anchored by safety Anthony Bratton.
Despite missing the final two games of the 2009 season, Bratton returns as one the top safeties in the Colonial Athletic Association, earning pre-season first team All-CAA honors as voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches, as well as being mentioned in several pre-season football publications.
Tonight, Bratton will be looking to help the No. 16 ranked Blue Hens open the 2010 season on a high note here at home vs. annual foe West Chester.
Bratton has earned that attention, playing in 29 career games and starting every one he has played in since the 2007 season.
A year ago, he led the Blue Hens in interceptions, grabbing four of the squad’s 10 picks. He also recorded three tackles for loss and posted two pass breakups.
Even short two games, Bratton finished 2009 as one of the CAA’s top defensive backs, earning second-team All-CAA accolades, ranking fifth in interceptions (four) and 11th in tackles among CAA defensive backs.
Not that playing defense is ever easy in the CAA, where opposing teams have a variety of offensive tactics and league members annually rank among the national leaders in passing, rushing, total offense, and scoring.
Last season all but two league team averaged over 21 points per game.
With the ever difficult conference schedule, Bratton and the Blue Hens must make adjustments from week to week, playing against the pass-heavy Massachusetts to the league’s top rushing team, Villanova, the following week.
“The best way (to handle the variety of offenses) is preparation,” said Bratton, an exercise science major from Manassas, Va. (Osbourn Park High School). “We’ve played a lot of these teams before, we get to watch a lot of film, and we’re a veteran secondary and defense. We’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot. Hopefully that favors us this year. If we want to be successful, we have to stop a lot of the multi-different attacks that we’ll see this year.”
It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys for Bratton, who injured his knee early in the season in 2008.
After putting in an outstanding performance with eight solo tackles in a tough season-opening 14-7 loss at the University of Maryland, a team that later played in a bowl game, Bratton injured his knee the next week in practice in preparation for the West Chester game.
“Unfortunately,” said Blue Hen head coach K.C. Keeler, who entered his ninth season at the helm this fall. “In ’08, he tweaked his knee, and we missed him for the rest of that season. But now the benefit for that lost season is that we have the chance to have him as a fifth-year senior year in 2010.”
As expected, communication will be a key component to the Hens’ defense this season, with Bratton playing the key role.
“He plays such a critical role in what we do defensively,” boasted Keeler of his standout defensive back. ”He’s one of the guys communicating back there and what he says and does makes a big difference in how successful we can be. He is a tremendous football player.”
Opposing quarterbacks will certainly need to keep their eyes on Bratton, possibly even adjusting who they target that game.
When asked if his game would be affected by quarterbacks looking the other way, Bratton said:
“It might, but for the most part, I don’t want it to,” he said. “I don’t want them throwing away from me because I like being that guy making plays and being in the mix on things. I don’t want them shying away from me at all. Hopefully it won’t, but if it happens, then I have to find another way to be a factor on the field.”
When joined with fellow All-CAA senior safety Anthony Walters as well as senior cornerback and co-captain Tyrone Grant and up-and-coming sophomore corner Marcus Burley, the group should make Delaware one of the stingiest squads in the nation when it comes to defending the pass.
“One of our goals is to be one of the best secondary units in the conference,” stated Bratton. “We want to get a lot of interceptions in the secondary, a lot of interceptions defensively. We want to be the best in the conference in every thing we do.”
Walters and Bratton are ranked first and second, respectively, in tackles among active players at Delaware.
During the 2009 campaign, Bratton recorded 49 tackles, including 32 solo stops, while Walters, who played mostly at cornerback a year ago, posted 55 to tackles, including 40 unassisted stops.
“We are both safeties this year,” said Bratton of Walters. “We trust each other and we trust everyone on the defense. You know, playing with him, having him back in the role (as a safety) will give us a lot of confidence and allow us to make a lot more plays. “
Bratton enjoyed a breakout season during the Blue Hens’ run to the national title game in 2007, starting in 14 games at strong safety, helping Delaware post an 11-4 overall record.
During that campaign, he ranked No. 2 on the team with 105 total tackles, including a team-best 73 stops.
A ball hawk, Bratton posted a career high five defended passes. He also managed to amass six or more tackles in 10 games that year, making a career-high 13 stops against the CAA foe New Hampshire.
During his freshman season, Bratton jumped out to an early start as one of only six true freshmen to see action. In his collegiate debut, he recorded four tackles vs. Northeastern, including being in on three tackles for loss.
But it’s the combination of Bratton and Walters that will be deadly to the opposition. The trio has combined for some astounding numbers, including 16 interceptions and 35 passes defended over the last three seasons. The corps has also amassed 443 combined tackles, one of the highest totals for a secondary in the CAA.
And Keeler agrees.
“We are one of the best secondary units in the country with both Anthonys, Tyrone, Marcus, and the others. Walters is an all-conference player and Tyrone is a tremendous corner. We have three seniors back there who have been in a lot of wars, and we’re going to rely on those guys to kind of lead us through.”
With Bratton anchoring that talented group, the Blue Hens will be looking to pick off some of the top opponents in the CAA.
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