Louisville fans are eagerly focused on the potential that awaits in 2013, both for their team and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
But there is an unspoken question looming, one that will soon confront both the Cardinals and Bridgewater: Is this his final season at Louisville?
While much of the attention on underclassmen in college football has focused on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Bridgewater has the potential to be a top pick in the NFL draft in 2014, too. ESPN Insider Travis Haney explored this topic further in a recent piece, with some pretty great insight.
In talking to some NFL draft experts, they all agree Bridgewater goes into this upcoming season as the No. 1 junior quarterback in college football. And had he been eligible, he most likely would have been the No. 1 quarterback taken in this year's draft, too. Some of that is due, in part, to the relatively weak quarterback class in 2013. But most of that is due to what Bridgewater can do.
One draft analyst told Haney, "Don't take anything away from him. The kid can play."
It doesn't take a longtime draft expert to see that, but Bridgewater's development into a first-round pick is a product of not only his own hard work and dedication but of the coaches around him. The bond he has formed with offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is undeniable. Bridgewater wants to be pushed; and Watson wants to push him as hard as he can.
As Haney writes, there are plenty of highly regarded high school quarterbacks who never translate their talent into a first-round selection in the draft. Bridgewater is sure to do that should he continue on his upward trajectory, because he has the natural talent, skills and work ethic. But perhaps above all else, Bridgewater is extremely coachable, mature and self-aware.
All those traits, coupled with a stellar junior year, and Bridgewater could end up saying an early good-bye to Louisville. In the meantime, there is an entire season's worth of games to play. The focus remains there.