March 21, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- The quarterback position is one of the most important and visible positions on a football team.
The University of Louisville is fortunate to have one of the best signal callers in the country in Teddy Bridgewater, who has turned around the fortunes of the Cardinals' football program.
The 6-foot-3 junior is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country after coming off a season where he was named the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player in the Sugar Bowl win over Florida.
A Miami, Fla., native, Bridgewater threw for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Cardinals to an 11-2 record and their second-straight BIG EAST title. He is being mentioned as one of the top players in the nation and someone who could lead the Cardinals to a third-straight title. But hype isn't something that consumes him.
"I don't pay attention to it. I'm all about this team," Bridgewater said. "I'm all about the team having success. I'm all about my teammates becoming better players. The Heisman isn't a goal of mine. A team effort; a national championship; a BCS game; those are our goals."
Bridgewater is fortunate to be surrounded by great players on both sides of the football, especially on offense, where eight starters return. But where Bridgewater really benefits the most from is having an experienced and deep corps of wide receivers.
"That is every quarterback's dream, ball fetchers," Bridgewater said. "DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland, Robert Clark, a new edition. Those guys bring excitement to the offense."
Copeland led the Cardinals last year with 50 receptions for 628 yards and two touchdowns, while Parker caught a team-high 10 touchdowns and averaged 18.6 yards a reception. Clark and tight end Gerald Christian, a transfer from Florida, give the Cardinals another dimension on offense.
"They change things up. We are able to do a lot more now that Gerald Christian is here," said Bridgewater. "We are able to have more packages with the tight end on the field. Robert Clark brings that speed to the offense; that quickness and elusiveness."
Christian is the most intriguing player. A big, athletic body, he gives the Cardinals something they lacked in 2012, a threat in the passing game.
"He is a machine," Bridgewater said of Christian. "He will go across the middle and catch the ball with three defenders on his back. He can block. He can pancake guys. He is an offensive lineman, a running back and a wide receiver in one body."
Coming off a memorable season, both individually and collectively, Bridgewater was excited to be back on the field this spring and see what progress his teammates have made in the offseason.
"It's a great feeling," Bridgewater said. "The offseason went well. The guys came out and competed. The first day is about being organized and showing effort. Today, everyone came out and gave it their all."
Being a junior who enrolled early, this is Bridgewater's third spring, which is huge for his development.
"There is a big difference," Bridgewater said. "I feel like a veteran. I feel like I'm one of those guys that everyone looks up to. If the young guys are out there and they don't know their assignments, I want to be out there to help them. That is something different about this team."
Another major difference is at the back-up position, previously occupied by now-graduated Will Stein. A safety blanket for Bridgewater, Stein was always there for guidance.
"It's weird not having Will (Stein) there," Bridgewater said. "Will was the guy who pushed me. He knew the offense. I'm the guy who has to teach the offense, while Will was the guy who was teaching me the offense."
The Cardinals got a glimpse of their new back-ups on Wednesday in Will Gardner and junior-college transfer Brett Nelson. Gardner is a big, physical performer, who is coming off a knee injury, while Nelson was a highly recruited signal caller coming out of Southwestern Community College in California.
"Will Gardner is a star in the making and Brett Nelson is too," Bridgewater said. "Both guys are ready to compete and eager to learn. They are both ready to get out there and show what they can do."
Strong is someone who also will be playing close attention to the back-up quarterback position.
"It's a priority because we haven't had a quarterback behind Teddy (Bridgewater) who has played in a game," head coach Charlie Strong said. "We have to find us a back-up. Today is the first day of practice where someone has thrown a football."