TAMPA - Members of the Wisniewski and the Bradley families have been teammates and friends for 30-plus years.
That's one reason Stefen Wisniewski, the Nittany Lions' All-American guard, was paying particular attention over the past two weeks when openings at Pitt and Temple - vacancies for which Tom Bradley was either mentioned or interviewed - were filled.
Neither job went to the Lions' defensive coordinator.
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Johnstown-native Tom Bradley is in his 32nd year as one of Joe Paterno’s assistant coaches at Penn State.
"We were watching those [searches], and I definitely think he'd be a great head coach," Wisniewski said Wednesday at the Tampa Convention Center during pre-Outback Bowl festivities. "He has a lot of those qualities. But we'd miss him here."
Another product of Penn State's "legacy" recruiting is linebacker Michael Mauti. His dad, Rich, was a Lion standout in the mid-70s and also was a teammate of Bradley's.
"I think he'd make a great head coach," Michael Mauti said. "I love playing for him."
Barring an offseason development, it appears Bradley will continue coaching Mauti and the Nittany Lions, at least for 2011 or however much longer Joe Paterno remains in charge.
The fact that he interviewed at Temple this late in the Paterno Era is an indication Bradley realizes he likely will not be chosen to succeed JoePa.
If Bradley is disappointed over that uncertainty, or that Pitt seemingly would rather close its doors than grant him an interview, or that Temple bypassed him, he didn't show it Wednesday.
He complimented Pitt's leadership and said he was "flattered" by Temple's interest, adding, "if I don't get to be a head coach, it's not going to define me."
Nor should it. Bradley has been a valuable and integral part of Paterno's success, and his name deserves to be chiseled alongside the likes of the best assistants Penn State has had - Frank Patrick, J.T. White and Jim O'Hora, Fran Ganter, Dick Anderson and Jerry Sandusky.
"I think I have it pretty good," Bradley, 54, said. "I'm working for a pretty good guy at a pretty good university. I'm happy where I am."
Then he added, tongue-in-cheek, "and I've probably been yelled at by Joe more than anyone."
That presumably includes a few times during what has been a disappointing season for the Penn State defense. The 7-5 Lions yielded 24 or more points seven times, were torched for 30-plus three times, and their 271 points allowed is the fourth-highest total in school history.
The Lions were particularly vulnerable up the middle and did not come close to replacing Jared Odrick, the Big Ten's 2009 defensive player of the year.
"We gave up too many explosion plays, and we didn't tackle well," Bradley said. "We didn't have as many sacks this year as we've had in the past. We lost good people, but we've got some young players coming up, and I think we'll get better."
Bradley said defensive end Jack Crawford, who missed much of the season with a foot injury, will be back but that promising freshman linebacker Khari Fortt (neck) is still questionable.
In addition to its three-quarterback look, Florida presents a challenge because it runs the option, and Penn State's scout team can not simulate the Gators' speed in practice.
"Our guys have to get into game mode very quickly," Bradley said, adding that the key to success in a bowl game is "hanging in there in the first quarter."
But he's optimistic, and the Lion defense, save the execution it took in the first half of the 2009 Rose Bowl, has generally played well in bowl games.
"It's almost like the first game all over again," Bradley said.
Those challenges have pre-occupied his focus and while media asked questions about jobs other the one he does have, Bradley is looking ahead, not back.
"I don't worry about it [speculation]," he said. "I've been here a long time, and I'm sure things will work out the way they're supposed to work out."
In Penn State's case, that's usually meant little staff movement.
"For not having a lot of turnover with coaches, obviously they're doing something right to keep these guys here," Mauti said.
"That's one of the tough things about having great assistant coaches - a lot of other people will want them," Wisniewski said. "You've got to root for them to get a head job somewhere."
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.