A little less than a month ago, the guy most folks consider to be the best NFL quarterback prospect for the 2014 draft wrapped up spring ball, and no one seemed to notice. There was no Sports Illustrated cover or big expose on the player some expect to challenge Jadeveon Clowney for the top draft spot come next spring.
And, while his head coach might not mind the lack of Johnny Football-like scrutiny, the football world has to make sure that Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater gets his due.
Quietly, patiently, Charlie Strong has grown his Louisville program. He took it from the mess that Steve Kragthorpe left, to a team that throttled the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. The most notable part of the transition has been the steady improvement of Bridgewater.
While offseason attention has been focused on Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, South Carolina's Clowney and even Alabama's AJ McCarron and Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Louisville's signal-caller has been off the radar.
Perhaps it is because of his quiet demeanor. He's not the in-your-face guy who some of the other players have been. Perhaps it is by design for Louisville, a school whose coach is not the "look at us" type. Perhaps it just sort of happened that way, as Louisville's basketball success never got the football train going.
Whatever the reason behind the low-key spring, all eyes should turn to Bridgewater this season. As Matt Miller notes over at Huge Upside, the NFL Draft blog:
Teddy Bridgewater is a must-see prospect over the summer. Do what you have to do, but find a way to watch this smooth operator at work.
Bridgewater is damn near perfect as a prospect. Now he's not quite there as a player, but on potential you see an athlete with a quick release, a strong arm and the feet to pick up yards when needed. He has running ability, but he's not a run-first quarterback. Bridgewater manages pressure well and in the face of some stout pass-rushers was able to make plays down the field.
Bridgewater can flat-out play, and football fans would be well-served by watching his highlights heading into 2013 to get acquainted with one of the nation's top players.
Things are setting up perfectly for the rising junior quarterback. Pittsburgh and Syracuse, two of the four Big East teams to beat the Cardinals in Bridgewater's first two seasons, are off to the ACC. Outside of a Kentucky team in transition, there is no out-of-conference power team on the schedule.
In short, Bridgewater is set to not just compete for a Heisman Trophy with a stellar season, but to pile up wins and sit, hoping for a shot to play in the BCS Championship Game. Due to the perception of the Big East, the Cardinals will need help to get that title shot. But hanging out near the top all season is a great way to force the college football world to notice what Strong has built at Louisville.
Since beating Florida, Bridgewater has taken a backseat on the national stage. However, come September, expect the young star to grab that spotlight back when he starts doing what he does as well as anyone in the country, playing football games that matter.
He won't wow you with his offseason exploits, but once he starts slinging the ball around the yard, he'll be on plenty of people's minds.
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