Bridgewater ready for big sophomore season

University of Louisville sophomore Teddy Bridgewater is one of the top quarterbacks in the Big East Conference. But he's a different player than he was as a true freshman, check out a feature on the QB at Cardinal Authority.

Teddy Bridgewater threw one pass in the season-opener for the University of Louisville last season and it went to a Murray State player.

It was the first college pass for the true freshman and highly touted quarterback from Miami Northwestern High School. But it was the start of a learning process that has seen Bridgewater already develop into a top-notch quarterback.

Bridgewater took over for injured Will Stein in the third game of the season, started the rest of the year and led the Cardinals to a second straight bowl bid.

Now smarter, more mature and 27 pounds heavier than he was in December, Bridgewater is ready to begin his sophomore season. He's projected as one of the top sophomore signal callers in the country and will lead U of L into its season-opening game against Kentucky on Sunday.

"It's a big difference this season," Bridgewater said. "Last year, this time I was still struggling, trying to learn the playbook and relying a lot on just doing it. But now things are coming a lot easier. I feel great and I am ready to get going.

"I just feel like I am a lot better at a lot of things, mainly game management. I have learned how to get us out of the huddle, go up tempo, just a lot of things."

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Bridgewater has shown the improvement the staff wanted to see from the end of the season until now. U of L head coach Charlie Strong said backup Will Stein has "pushed Teddy to make him better."

"The thing I like to see out of Teddy, him manage the game," Watson said. "Manage situational football. Norman downs. Understanding it's about finding completions. Same thing in two-minute offense, red-zone offender, different aspects of football that a quarterback gets into, he has to manage those things.

"We put a lot on him and he's grown into all of those things. He's really improved in a lot of areas. He's very confident in all of that right now."

After completing 2 of 3 passes for 14 yards in the first two games of last season behind Stein, Bridgewater was likely going to see some time against Kentucky on the road in the third game of the season.

But he saw more than he expected when Stein was knocked out with a shoulder injury. Bridgewater came in to complete 10 of 18 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns and directed the Cardinals to a win over rival UK.

"He was pretty confident from the beginning," center Mario Benavides said.

Added wide receiver Damian Copeland: "He was like an upper classman."

The sub for Stein turned into a regular gig for Bridgewater, who turned out being named the Big East Rookie of the Year last season. He started 10 games and completed 191 of 296 passes for 2,129 yards and 14 TDs with 12 interceptions.

"Last year, I was learning and sometimes would lock into to one receiver," Bridgewater said. "But I learned a lot. I still am learning something new every day. But it's a big difference now, I know more of the play and where the routes end and what everybody is doing on every play so that makes a big difference."

Another big difference for Bridgewater is his body. He came to U of L at 179 pounds but will play this season around 220, more than 40 pounds heavier. He said he did it by eating right and doing more conditioning.

"Just eating the right foods and not letting it all turn to fat," he said. "But the weight has affected me in positive ways. I can feel (strength) with the way I throw the ball, with more velocity and power."

Watson said fans would be able to notice right away that he's bigger and stronger.

"He's taken to heart to increasing his durability, strength, his strength and his durability," Watson said. "He's a totally different looking player. He's thicker. But he has not lost -- if anything he's as fast if not faster than what he was.

"He's really grown up since he's been here."

Bridgewater, who said he was "well aware" of some of the top QBs that came before him at U of L, is already getting national attention. He was placed on the preseason watch lists for the Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback) and Maxwell Award (best player in college football).

"I pay no attention to all of that," he said. "I am just very excited. I am excited for this university and all of my teammates. We worked hard and have been through a lot in the offseason and we'll see if all of that pays off this weekend."

Watson is also excited to see his signal caller take the field, believing he's going to have a bang-up season this year for the Cardinals.

"The strongest attribute Teddy brings to the table is his character; he never gets too high nor does he get too low," Watson said. "And the beautiful thing about Teddy is Teddy never thinks he's too good. Teddy is consistently Teddy and that means he's humble. The part that I've always enjoyed most about working with him is his humility as well as his desire, his hunger to be the best.

"He wants to be something special; not special to anyone on the team; he just wants to be a quarterback he wants to be regarded as a great quarterback and he works hard at it so I believe in his character; that's his strongest attribute; I think that our team would tell you about Teddy whether it's offense or defense they would will tell you that about him; his leadership, his credibility is because he's Teddy every day. He goes to work every day."

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