Thursday, March 24, 2011
Will Stein dispelling doubts at Louisville
By Brian Bennett
For Will Stein, any lingering questions about his stature are simply the height of stupidity.
The redshirt junior is taking the starter's reps at quarterback this spring for Louisville. Even if he may not look like your average BCS quarterback -- Stein is listed at 5-foot-10 -- Stein doesn't see that as an issue any longer.
Louisville quarterback Will Stein's teammates and coaches aren't worried about his short stature.
"If the only thing people have on me is my height, then I think I'm doing some things right," he said. "My teammates don't give a crap if I'm short -- they just want production out of the quarterback position. I've seen plenty of tall guys who can't throw at all, and plenty of short guys who have succeeded."
Head coach Charlie Strong said earlier this month that he would feel good opening the season with Stein as his starter. New quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson compared Stein to other successful signalcallers he has coached like Joe Klatt and Mike Moschetti at Colorado and Joe Ganz at Nebraska.
"I don't think anybody here is bothered by [Stein's height] at all," Watson said. "I'm surely not. It really comes down to so many other factors that weigh into being a championship quarterback, and height is not one of them."
The Cardinals have seen Stein in action and know what he brings to the table. He started two games in 2009 and came on in relief of Justin Burke in the Rutgers game last year. He won a state championship in high school before walking on to Louisville, where he was stuck behind several other quarterbacks. Stein said he thought about transferring after his first semester, but the high price of the likely smaller private school he would have gone to helped discourage him.
He's glad he stayed. Strong gave him a scholarship, and other quarterbacks like Matt Simms and Zack Stoudt transferred. Last year's two senior starters, Burke and Adam Froman, are gone, leaving him as the most experienced player at the position.
"The universe has worked out in my favor," he said.
Stein still must hold off two other quarterbacks, including prized recruit and early enrollee Teddy Bridgewater, who at 6-foot-3 looks an awful lot more like the model for the position. But Bridgewater has a long way to go.
"He's in China right now," Watson said. "He's learning to speak a new language. He told me after practice, 'Everything is going really fast and it's really different.' It's a process, but he has football intelligence and a real confident, poised demeanor. He will fight his way through the learning curve."
Stein is making sure to help Bridegwater and sophomore Dominique Brown learn the position this spring while trying to beat them out. It's the first time in his four years with the team that he's had the same offensive coordinator for a second straight year, so he feels much more knowledgeable than ever with the offense and the system. Still, as a former walk-on, he knows not to assume too much.
"The way I see it, I'm not anything right now," he said. "I've got to earn it, and I've got to earn the respect of my teammates."
Stein has already gained the respect. How do we know? Because hardly anybody talks about his height anymore.