Coach Strong and new offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will have the luxury of one of the most dynamic young quarterback's in the game today with Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater at the helm.
Bridgewater will rely on sophomore wide outs DeVante Parker, Michael Lee Harris, Eli Rogers and senior Scott Radcliff. Each brings something different to the table and Strong knows they must produce to put points on the board.
There is optimism on the defensive side of the ball as Louisville finished 17th nationally in scoring defense, 10th against the run and 23rd in total defense. With leading tackler strong safety Hakeem Smith returning and players such as Brandon Dunn, Preston Brown, Marcus Smith and Roy Philon all back hopes are high for Strong's unit.
The schedule sets up nicely for Louisville as they get Kentucky, North Carolina, South Florida, Cincinnati and Connecticut at home. Charlie Strong and crew will face road games at Southern Miss, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and the season finale against Rutgers. Expectations are high for Charlie Strong and the rest of his coaching staff as the ten win plateau is within reach heading into the 2012 season.
Scout.com caught up with six current assistant coaches and four 2013 verbal commitments to talk about coach Strong and the upcoming season.Coach Vance Bedford:
"Having the opportunity to coach with a man who truly cares about the young men he coaches is a great motivation for me as a man. What coach Strong has done in a short time in changing the culture at the University of Louisville is rare."
Vance Bedford has solidified his name as one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation after two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals.
Entering his third season, Bedford has guided the Cardinals defense to consecutive top 25 finishes in total defense. Louisville finished 23rd in total defense this past season after ranking 14th in 2010.
In helping the Cardinals earn a share of the BIG EAST title this past year, Bedford's defense was 10th nationally against the run, 17th in scoring defense and 21st in sacks.
Bedford might have pulled together his best coaching job in the country in 2010, as the Cardinals ranked in the top 20 in several defensive categories. Louisville finished 14th in the country in total defense, 10th in pass defense and seventh in the country in sacks.
Bedford joined the Louisville staff after serving on the defensive staff at Florida for two seasons. Bedford coached the cornerbacks at Florida, and guided the Gators to a national title and a win over Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl.
Bedford has 19 years of coaching experience at schools in the BIG EAST, SEC, Big Ten, BIG 12, and also has six years of experience in the National Football League. In 2009, Bedford guided the Gators to a 13-1 record and a win over previously-undefeated Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. His secondary was one of the best in the nation, finishing seventh in the country in interceptions and second in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
Joe Haden, a first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns, was a consensus All-American in 2009 and was also named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. He was named the Sporting News Defensive MVP of the Year and first-team All-SEC by every outlet as a junior. Haden became the first true freshman to start at cornerback on opening day in UF history in 2007 and started all 40 games he played in. He finished his career with 218 tackles, eight interceptions and 3.5 sacks.
During the 2008 season, Bedford helped mold a unit of young Gator cornerbacks into one of the best in the country. Florida`s pass defense ranked as one of the worst in the country in 2007, finishing 98th in pass yardage defense and 101st in pass efficiency defense. The turnaround was spearheaded by Bedford, who stepped in during the spring of 2008 to lead a secondary that ranked third in pass efficiency defense and 20th in pass yardage defense. The group also tied the school record and led the nation with 26 interceptions on the season, returning five for a touchdown, tied for best in the country.
Bedford began his NFL coaching career as the defensive backs` coach for the Chicago Bears in 1999. He remained with the Bears until 2004, and during that time his secondary returned seven interceptions for touchdowns during a four-year stretch, equaling the team`s total from the previous nine seasons combined. While with Chicago, Bedford developed three young talents in Mike Brown, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher.
His first tenure as the Michigan`s secondary coach was from 1995-98, when the Wolverines led the nation in pass defense in 1997 and ranked 20th in 1996. The Wolverines` 1997 national championship secondary set an NCAA record allowing just 8.8 yards per completion and finished fifth nationally by allowing just 133.8 passing yards per contest. His secondary in 1997 led the Big Ten and finished third nationally with 22 interceptions, and Charles Woodson became the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Prior to working at Michigan, he coached two seasons at Oklahoma State University in 1993 and 1994 and six seasons at Colorado State from 1987-92 as the defensive backs coach. tenure at CSU led to a trip to the 1991 Freedom Bowl and his 1990 secondary set a school record and led the nation with 25 interceptions.
A four-year letterman and starter at cornerback for the University of Texas from 1977-79 and also in 1981, A two-time All-Southwest Conference second team selection, Bedford played in the Cotton and Sun bowls twice during his career. He was selected captain of the 1981 team and earned Most Valuable Player honors in the 1982 Senior Bowl All-Star Game.
Bedford was selected in the fifth round of the 1982 NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played one season with the Cardinals and a year with the USFL`s Oklahoma Outlaws in 1984 before embarking on a coaching career.Coach Clint Hurtt:
Assoc. HC/Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator:
"For me it means the opportunity to build a perennial championship team with who we all feel is the best head coach in the country in Charlie Strong. It's special to be a coach here because there have been some outstanding head coaches here as well as assistants so there is a strong run of quality teachers in this programs history."
One of the nation's best recruiters and one of the bright young defensive line coaches in the country, Clint Hurtt has established himself as one of the best all-around coaches on the staff.
Beginning his third season at Louisville as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, Hurtt continues to upgrade the talent at Louisville with outstanding recruiting classes.
With two recruiting classes under his belt, Hurtt has put the Cardinals on the national scene, not only recruiting against the top schools nationally, but landing many of the nation's top prospects.
In two seasons in Louisville, Hurtt has put together consecutive solid recruiting classes, including his 2011 class, which was the best in the history of the school. The Cardinals are ranked 22nd by ESPN.com, 29th by Rivals.com and 33rd by Scout.com.
For his productivity in the last recruiting class, Hurtt was recognized by ESPN.com as the National Recruiter of the Year.
On the field, he continues to develop young talent and making the defensive line one of the top units on the field. He has tutored a number of freshmen and sophomores to give the Cardinals a bright future along the defensive line. Junior Marcus Smith led the Cardinals with 5.5 sacks in his first season at defensive end.
In 2011, the Cardinals finished 21st in the nation in sacks and 22nd in tackles for loss, as the Cardinals ranked 10th in the nation against the run with a 100.54 average.
Tutoring the defensive line in 2010, Hurtt took an inexperience unit and molded it into a surprisingly consistent unit. Defensive end Rodney Gnat led the Cardinals in sacks with nine and Malcolm Tatum recorded a career-best 44 stops, which was tops among the defensive line. The Cardinals finished the season ranked sixth in the nation in sacks and 29th in tackles for loss after the Cardinals were ranked 58th and 63rd, respectively, in 2009 -- the year prior to Hurrt's arrival.
Hurtt came to Louisville after spending three seasons at Miami (Fla.), his alma mater. Hurtt signed the top class in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2008 and 2009, while with the Hurricanes. He helped signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2008, according to ESPN.com. The 2009 class was ranked in the top 10 in the country as six of the signees were ranked in the ESPN.com Top 150.
UM's defensive line recorded 27.5 sacks while the Hurricane defense led the ACC. Hurtt came back to his alma mater in 2006 after one season as the defensive line coach at Florida International. The 2006 Hurricanes' defense set a school record for allowing the fewest rushing yards in a season -- 67.9 yards per game, breaking the previous mark of 69.1 yards per game set in 1989.
Spending one season at FIU in 2005 was a productive one for Hurtt. He tutored Antwan Barnes, who was a first team All-Sun Belt selection and the school's first NFL draft pick.
Hurtt was a three-year letterman for the Hurricanes as a defensive lineman. He signed with Miami in 1997 and played extensively as a freshman before redshirting in 1998 to recover from an injury. Hurtt returned to the lineup and saw extensive action in 1999 and 2000 before an injury prior to the 2001 season ended his playing career.
After the injury, Hurtt joined the Hurricanes staff as a volunteer assistant on the strength and conditioning staff. In 2003, he was named a graduate assistant and worked with the defensive line for two seasons.
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Hurtt had an outstanding prep career at Milford (Conn.) Academy. He graduated from the University of Miami in 2001 with a degree in criminology and liberal arts.
Hurtt is married to Tanisha LeCount, and the couple has two children, Taylor and Clayton.Coach Brian Jean-Mary:
Asst. Head Coach of the Defense/Linebackers:
"It means a lot because you feel like your coaching at a program that is on the rise nationally. It makes any success a little sweeter when you were part of the foundation and see it develop from the ground up."
Brian Jean-Mary, a 13-year coaching veteran and a former assistant at Louisville, is in his third season coaching the linebackers and serving as the assistant head coach of the defense at Louisville.
Under Jean-Mary's direction last season, the linebackers were one of the surprise groups on the team.
Dexter Heyman was a second-team All-BIG EAST selection and finished as the team's leading tackler. Heyman also led the Cardinals in interceptions with three and tackles for loss with 16.0.
Preston Brown showed the biggest improvement under Jean Mary's tutelage, totaling a career-high 84 tackles and 5.0 tackles for loss.
Jean-Mary tutored a group of linebackers in 2010 that were one of the most consistent units on the football team. Led by Brandon Heath, the linebackers finished as three of the team's top six tacklers. Heath registered 70 tackles and three sacks, while Daniel Brown had 54 tackles and three sacks.
Jean-Mary (pronounced JON-muh-REE), who was at the University of Louisville in 2000, was instrumental in building a Georgia Tech defense that was one of the most consistent units in the country. He helped coach a Georgia Tech unit that has been ranked among the nation's Top 30 in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense in five of the six seasons.
Under Jean-Mary's tutelage, Yellow Jacket linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Gary Guyton became the core of the Tech defense in 2008. The duo were first and second on the team in tackles, respectively, and combined for 22.5 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks in 2007. Wheeler was once again awarded for his play by being selected to the All-ACC second team. As a team, Tech led the nation in sacks and ranked second in tackles-for-loss during the regular season.
Jean-Mary tutored the linebacker duo of KaMichael Hall and Wheeler into two of the top defenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2006. Wheeler earned second-team All-America honors as well as second-team All-ACC accolades, while Hall garnered honorable mention All-ACC recognition.
In 2005, Jean-Mary coached two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker Gerris Wilkinson, Tech's leading tackler his last two seasons. Wilkinson was a third-round draft pick of the New York Giants. Jean-Mary's linebackers recorded seven of the Yellow Jackets' 21 interceptions.
In 2004,Jean-Mary also worked with Chris Reis, who earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors in his only season at outside linebacker. Wilkinson and Reis flourished at linebacker after moving from defensive end and safety, respectively.
Prior to his tenure at Georgia Tech, Jean-Mary spent one season coaching the defensive backs at North Alabama, one of the top programs in NCAA Division II. He helped the Lions to a 13-1 record, the Gulf South Conference title and a berth in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2003. North Alabama's defense was one of the best in the nation, ranking sixth nationally in scoring defense at 14.1 points per game, and 25th in pass defense and 26th in total defense.
Jean-Mary previously spent two years (2001-02) as a defensive graduate assistant at South Carolina under Lou Holtz and one year (2000) as a graduate assistant on the strength and conditioning staff at Louisville.
A native of Apopka, Fla., Jean-Mary played college football at Appalachian State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1998.Coach Dave Borberly:
Offensive Line/Running Game Coordinator:
"I can tell you I have been at Stanford, Notre Dame, Colorado and Virginia and I could not be prouder to be part of the University of Louisville. I love our players and I love working with Charlie Strong. We have a great deal going on at Louisville."
Dave Borbely, who have coached on the college level for 31 years, begins his third season as the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at the University of Louisville.
In his first two seasons with the Cardinals, he has coached two All-BIG EAST performers in first-teamer Mark Wetterer and second-teamer Byron Stingily, who was also a sixth-round selection by the Tennessee Titans.
Jake Smith was the school's first FWAA freshman All-American this past season, and Borberly was instrumental in rebuilding a line that had to replace four starters. Coaching a veteran group of offensive linemen in 2010, Borbely oversaw a unit that was widely considered by head coach Charlie Strong as the "glue" of the 2010 team.
Led by four seniors, the Cardinals allowed just 17 sacks all season, which was the second-fewest total in the BIG EAST Conference. Louisville rushed for 2,275 yards and 4.8 yards per carry.
Borbely joined Strong's staff after spending four seasons as the offensive line coach at the University of Virginia. He served as the running game coordinator and offensive line coach and has coached some of the most successful linemen in the history of the Virginia football program.
Borbely coached senior offensive tackle Eugene Monroe in 2008 to several All-American squads including second-team honors by the Associated Press and Walter Camp Football Foundation. Monroe, a first-team All-ACC selection, was also voted the winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the league's best blocker.
During that season, Monroe was instrumental on an offensive line that led the Atlantic Coast Conference by allowing just 16 sacks. That unit also allowed senior tailback Cedric Peerman to finish his career with 1,749 rushing yards, ranking 19th on the Cavaliers' all-time list.
In 2007, Borberly tutored offensive guard Branden Albert, who was named a third-team AP All-American and selected to the All-ACC squad. He was taken as the 15th overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2008 NFL draft.
Borbely guided Virginia running game to an average of 122.7 yards per game during the second half of the season. Borbely also coached Will Barker, who started all 12 games. Barker was one of three first-time starters along the offensive front.
Borbely oversaw his progression throughout the year and mirrored that of the offense that had four of its top-six performances in the second half of the season. Barker went on to earn ACC All-Freshman Team honors. For four seasons, Borbely worked as the offensive line coach at Colorado for Gary Barnett. His resume also includes stops at Notre Dame, Stanford, Tulane, Temple, and Rice.
During Borbely's four seasons at Colorado, the Buffs advanced to three bowl appearances and captured the Big 12 Northern Division on three occasions. In 2002, Colorado finished sixth in the nation in rushing.
Prior to his stint with the Buffs, Borbely coached the offensive line at Notre Dame from 1998 to 2001, where he worked with Strong. While with the Irish, he coached in two New Year's Day bowls (1999 Gator and 2001 Fiesta).
From 1995-1997 Borbely was the offensive line coach at Stanford where he helped the Cardinal to Liberty and Sun Bowl invitations following the 1995 and 1996 seasons. In 1996, Borbely had two players, Brad Badger and Nate Parks, selected in the NFL draft.
His previous assistant coaching stops included three-year stints at Tulane (1992-94), Temple (1989-91)1991 and Rice (1986-88). Borbely started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Evansville from 1981-82. He was the freshmen defensive line coach at Pennsylvania in 1983 and received his first Division I opportunity on the Division I level as a graduate assistant at Tennessee from 1984-1985.
A native of Hammond, Ind., Borbely earned his bachelor of arts degree in history from DePauw (Ind.) University and a master of arts in secondary education from the University of Evansville in 1982. At DePauw, he earned four letters in football and twice was named the team's top lineman.Coach Sherron Moore:
"It is an honor to be able to work with a coaching staff that cares about the players and the program so much. Coach Strong has done an unbelievable job in making this feel like a big time atmosphere. We except nothing less than to win championships. If you want to compete at that level that's how you must think. We are still a young football team that has talent but we must continue everyday to progress and learn the game to win more championships."
Sherron Moore was elevated to tight ends coach after serving three seasons as the offensive graduate assistant.
Moore was hired in 2008 and was retained by head coach Charlie Strong for the 2009 and 2010 season before receiving a promotion.
Moore will spend the season assisting on the offensive line. A former offensive guard at Oklahoma during 06-08' seasons, Moore helped the Sooners win two Big 12 Championships and play in two BCS bowls games.
He was an All-Big 12 first team academic performer. Moore transferred to Butler County Community College where he played two seasons at left tackle for the Grizzlies. He was a two-time All-Conference player and All-District performer. Moore earned his bachelor's degree from Oklahoma in communications.
Moore earned his master's degree in sports administration from Louisville.Coach Tommy Restivo:
"The expectation for this season is to win the Big East title like every year."
After spending two years as a quality control coach on the defensive staff at Louisville, Tommy Restivo was elevated to secondary coach by head coach Charlie Strong, whom Restivo worked with at Florida.
Restivo spent the previous two seasons as the defensive quality control assistant at Louisville under defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. He has been a key component in the Cardinals building a top 25 defense.
Prior to joining the Cardinals, Restivo was the defensive graduate assistant at Florida for Strong, who was the defensive coordinator. Restivo also was the defensive quality control assistant for the Gators in 2008, who were crowned the BCS champions with a 24-14 win over high-powered Oklahoma.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Restivo was a defensive graduate assistant at Marshall.
Restivo graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in Kinesiology, where he also lettered as a linebacker.Keith Towbridge:
6'4 245-pound tight end Toledo (OH) Central Catholic High School:
"My relationship with coach Restivo is strong. We joke around and talk about everything. He tells me what's real. I have the best relationship with coach Moore. He can't wait for me to get down there to work with him and I can't wait either."Kyle Bolin:
6'3 190-pound quarterback Lexington (KY) Lexington Catholic High School:
"Coach Strong is a man of integrity and character. he is able to connect with his players in way that a lot of coaches cant. Same with the rest of the coaching staff. Their ability to connect with the players and recruits is second to none which is why the recruiting classes continue to get better and better."Skylar Lacy:
6'6 290-pound offensive tackle Greenwood (IN) Center Grove High School:
"The staff is cool, pretty laid back but on the field they are all over you and coach Strong is that dude. He's the reason my dad likes the University of Louisville so much and he is definitely who I want to play for in college."Chandler Bridges:
6'5 270-pound offensive tackle Flowery Branch (GA) Flowery Branch High School:
"I was very impressed with coach Strong and his honesty and appreciated all the coaches telling me straight up what was going on. I look forward to playing for a head coach of such high character."
University of Louisville Sports Information Department contributed to this story.