Stein's experience provides edge in QB battle

Can veteran Will Stein hold off Teddy Bridgewater to become Louisville's starting quarterback? The 5'10 junior holds an edge on Louisville's promising freshman heading into the opener against Murray State.

Who will emerge from fall camp as Louisville's starting quarterback?

Unless true freshman Teddy Bridgewater closes camp extremely strong, Will Stein, a 5'10 former walk-on, looks to be the guy.

"Will Stein is obviously ahead of Teddy because of his experience," offensive coordinator Mike Sanford recently said. "We think both guys are very good players and both of them are going to play. We're going to see how it develops, but both of them are going to play."

With the season-opener against Murray State only two weeks away, Stein holds an edge over Bridgewater, a former four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American from Miami. Though Stein stands a good chance to start the season opener, the 6'3, 200-pound Bridgewater might be the fan favorite because of his potential and high school accolades.

"A lot of times, the fan base gravitates toward the new (guy), but really the veteran guy has the upper-hand because he knows a little bit more," said Louisville quarterback coach Shawn Watson. "Will understands the game of football. The biggest thing for a young player is to understand how to manage a college football game and Teddy has been able to really learn from Will. It's a very competitive and good situation."

Teddy Bridgewater
Charlie Strong has made clear to both Stein and Bridgewater that he doesn't need them to go out and try to win games by themselves. Instead, the UofL coach wants his quarterback to manage the game, limit turnovers, and get the ball into the hands of Josh Bellamy, Jeremy Wright and the Cardinals other offensive weapons.

Stein understands that role.

"I just need to be a game manager," said Stein, who threw for a touchdown and ran for another score in Louisville's scrimmage last Saturday. "That means completing 70 percent of my passes, not turning the ball over and getting the ball to the playmakers."

Stein, who started two games as a freshman during Steve Kragthorpe's farewell tour, played sparingly last season behind starters Adam Froman and Justin Burke, though he did make a successful relief appearance in a win on the road over Rutgers in the season finale that made the Cardinals bowl eligible.

"I feel like I take care of the ball pretty well and can extend plays," Stein said. "With my size, you have to get me out of the pocket a little bit and get me on the run. At the same time, I feel like I can throw from the pocket and I'm a good rollout passer."

Watson, a nationally respected quarterback guru who came to Louisville this season from Nebraska, where he was the Huskers offensive coordinator, likes the intangibles Stein brings to the field.

"I'm really impressed with Will Stein because of his great work ethic," Watson said. "He's a very competitive person. He's a quick study and he's been managed very well. It's been an easy transition with me and him because he loves football. Will has a lot of moxie and the intangibles you look for in a quarterback."

While Stein possesses the intangibles Watson looks for in his quarterbacks, Bridgewater appears to be the Cardinals quarterback of the future.

"Teddy has a lot of talent, but has a lot to learn," Watson said. "The fun thing about Teddy is he's a very humble person. He has great character. He understands he's got a lot to learn, but he is competitive and a quick study. I can show him on film or the field, and the very next play he's got it. He's got the natural instincts that a quarterback needs to develop into a good player."

Though Sanford plans to play both Stein and Bridgewater this season, depth behind those two is a concern. Sophomore Dominque Brown, who was the Wild-Card-back last season, is the third string quarterback despite throwing only one pass a season ago. Behind Brown, Louisville has a pair of walk-ons.

"We have a depth problem at the position and we need to improve that," Sanford said. "We have improved the position just by adding Teddy. But we need to continue to develop depth at the position."

Despite experience and depth issues at quarterback, Stein expects Louisville again to be a power running team.

"I think we're going to be a heavy run team with play-action passing," Stein said. "I'm going to be a guy who can hopefully extend the play and get out of the pocket a little bit."

Though Louisville lost four starters on the offensive line, Stein has confidence that line coach Dave Borbely's rebuilt unit will get the job done for the Cardinals.

"Coach Borbely is one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation and he's going to get those guys right," Stein said. "We're definitely confident in those guys."

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