That was big news out of the Cardinals' spring practices, which ended Friday night with the team's annual spring game.
Will Stein passed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, while Vic Anderson ran for 72 yards and two more scores as the Red beat the White 31-14 in front of 2,483 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
"For it being the end of our spring practice I thought the guys did a great job of coming out and competing," Strong said.
The Cards competed well in Strong's first season, going 7-6 and capping their campaign with a 31-28 victory over Southern Mississippi in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. They return 13 starters from that team, but not their leading passer, rusher or receiver.
"I've been pleased with the way guys have stepped up this spring," Strong said.
Foremost among those has been Anderson, the Big East's Rookie of the Year as a freshman, who battled injuries his sophomore and junior seasons.
Anderson, who praised the program's trainers after the spring game, provided the biggest and easily the most exciting play of the scrimmage - a 58-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
With his Red team facing a first-and-10 from its own 42 Anderson took a handoff from Stein, started to his right before cutting back to his left and finding a huge hole.
"It felt good opening up and getting out in the open," said Anderson, who averaged 12 yards on his six carries, which all came in the first half. "It's been so long since I've had a run like that."
Anderson rushed 64 times for 286 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and no touchdowns last season playing behind one of the nation's leading rushers, Bilal Powell, whom Strong anointed the "face of the program."
"I think he's going to be the face of the program like Bilal was last year," Stein said of Anderson afterward.
Stein, meanwhile, looked like he might be the quarterback taking the first snaps of the 2011 season. The junior seemed much more comfortable than either sophomore Dominique Brown or highly-touted freshman Teddy Bridgewater.
Stein, who was No. 3 on the Cardinals' depth chart at quarterback last season behind Adam Froman and Justin Burke, completed more passes Friday night than he did during the 2010 campaign. The 5-foot-10 signal-caller was 10 for 17 for 123 yards. He tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Josh Chichester 1-minute, 30 seconds before halftime for the Red team, then tossed another one - an 11-yarder to Josh Bellamy - a minute later for the White's first score.
Stein marched the Red team down the field for a touchdown on the first possession of the spring game. On the 10-play series he handed it off six times, threw one 10-yard pass and ran three times for 32 yards. His 22-yard scamper on second-and-3 from the White's 30 set up Anderson's 2-yard TD run.
"The thing I like about Stein is he's so competitive, and he's a winner," Strong said. "The only thing we need him, or whoever it is, is to manage the offense. We have enough skill guys, if we can just get the ball in their hands they can go and make plays."
"My job is not to try to do anything superhero-like, he's called me Brett Favre a couple of times," Stein said. "My job is to be the point guard out there and get it to the playmakers and let them make the plays."
Bridgewater, the five-star recruit who enrolled at Louisville in January after graduating from Miami (Fla.) Northwestern so he could go through spring practice, showed his inexperience early. He started as the quarterback of the White team. On his second snap he was sacked for a 2-yard loss before throwing a 28-yard pass to Scott Radcliff out of a shotgun formation on his third snap. That play, however, was called back due to a false start penalty. On the next play he tried to force a long pass down the middle of the field and it was picked off by junior safety Agyei Williams. The Trinity graduate returned the ball 32 yards before a personal foul penalty gave the Red a first down at the White 11. The Red couldn't turn the turnover into a touchdown, but it did get three points on Chris Philpott's 35-yard field goal.
The 6-2, 193-pound Bridgewater finished the first half 2-for-6 for 19 yards with two interceptions while he was sacked five times (a touch by the defense was good enough for a sack in his game).
"I told him just to calm down," Strong said. "He's just needs to develop and grow. He'll be good."
Anderson's long run, followed by Stein's TD passes finished the first half.
The only scoring in the second half, which was played with a running clock, came on Senorise Perry's 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Bridgewater's 11-yard TD toss to Chris White in the fourth.
"At the beginning his head was spinning a little bit, I spoke to him and he said, 'It's nothing, I've played in front of bigger crowds at Northwestern,'" Anderson said of highly-regarded QB. "There at the end he showed flashes of how great he's going to be."
Bridgewater finished 7 for 16 for 76 yards.
"He's done a terrific job," Stein said of Bridgewater. "He's really grasped the offense and he's a terrific athlete, you could see that out there. It's tough coming in from high school, but he's handled it with a lot of poise."
Louisville's defense, which played without several starters, played with plenty of poise. It recorded seven sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Roy Philon led the Cardinals with eight tackles, while linebacker Preston Brown had six and defensive tackle Randy Salmon added a pair of sacks. Strong, though, lamented his team's weakness in the secondary afterward.
"We need to find two cornerbacks," he said. "You'd think through 15 practice that somebody would've stepped up, but nobody did...We're going to have to find some players there, I don't know if it will be freshmen or not."
The Cardinals open up their 2011 season by hosting Murray State at 6 p.m. Sept. 1.
"As a team we're ready to take the next step and focus on the future," Stein said.