Thursday, November 10, 2011
Teddy Bridgewater comes into his own
By Andrea Adelson
This is all you need to know about why Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a star in the making.
"In my life right now he's really a cornerstone, a foundation for not only me but for our staff and our program," said Shawn Watson, quarterbacks coach and acting offensive coordinator. "Everybody has learned they can count on Teddy. We never have to worry about him. He competes in the classroom, takes care of his teammates. As a freshman, he stands up and leads our team, and he does it from his heart. It's not phony. His words are humble. When he says something, everybody stops and listens. He's got that 'it' factor."
Imagine that. An 18-year-old freshman everyone can depend on, no matter what. Most 18-year-olds have a hard time remembering to do laundry. Bridgewater is leading his team to an improbable turnaround season. A win over Pitt on Saturday gets the Cardinals bowl eligible and extends their winning streak to four.
Louisville freshman Teddy Bridgewater is completing more than 70 percent of his passes in the past two games.
What has allowed Louisville to turn its season around has been the development of Bridgewater, one of the more highly touted quarterbacks in the nation last season. He arrived on campus in the spring, and expectations went sky high because of all his talent and potential. He did not start the season, but played in a few series behind Will Stein in the opening games. Those series did not go so well.
But after Stein went down with a shoulder injury against Kentucky, Bridgewater coolly stepped in and led the Cardinals to the all-important win. His poise was evident. But the Cardinals lost their next three games. Coach Charlie Strong made a change at offensive coordinator, handing play-calling duties over to Watson for the North Carolina game.
Louisville went through some growing pains with the transition, but the Cardinals are finally finding their groove. Several factors have helped Bridgewater grow. The offensive line is much better. The running game is much better. Bridgewater is now playing without inhibitions. So he can play much, much faster and that helps with rhythm and having a command of the offense.
In the past two victories, he is completing over 70 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns to one interception. Against Syracuse he started with seven straight completions. Against West Virginia, with 10 straight completions.
"It's all about trusting the system and buying into what the coaches say," Bridgewater said in a phone interview. "That right there gives you the confidence. The biggest thing is slow down and let the game come to you and don't think too much."
It's helped that Watson -- his position coach -- is calling the plays, and the two have developed a close relationship.
Year of the Quarterback
ESPN has dedicated 2011 to examining one of the most crucial positions in all of sports -- the quarterback. Year of the QB »
"What I do is I call the game through his eyes," Watson said. "I know what he knows because of our relationship. I dig into that and I know when he's comfortable and not comfortable, and I know what he likes and doesn't like. I don't try to make him me. We do what we knows and what he has a feel and comfort for."
Watson said the way Bridgewater studies film has been impressive for a young player, on top of all the other attributes that have made him so special. Anybody can see the potential he brings to this program in the years to come.
"I've never had a freshman like him, and I've done this 30 years now," Watson said. "He is just wired that way. It all begins with at home.I know his mom is an awesome lady, and she has raised him as a very humble person. She raised him to be a man of character. He's that. He understands that people rely on him. He desperately wants to be a great player. He'll will himself there because of his work ethic. His character is going to allow him to get there. He's not spoiled by the process. He embraces the tough parts. His future's very bright."