Dorm Report: Bridgewater embarks on highly anticipated campaign

8:52 AM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is a big weekend for Teddy Bridgewater. Obviously, it's a big weekend for every player who straps on pads at the FBS level, but 99 percent of those players don't have the type of spotlight on them that Bridgewater has.

Entering last season. Louisville's signal-caller was considered a solid quarterback. He had thrown for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns, while completing 64.5 percent of his passes in 2011.

In 2012 he dwarfed those numbers by completing 68.5 percent of his pass attempts for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns. Bridgewater was also the driving force behind Louisville's 11-2 record and a shocking 33-23 win over SEC power Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

There is no more flying under the radar for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound gunslinger this time around. Since the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Super Dome, Bridgewater has been grouped among college football's elite. His name has constantly been brought up when anyone mentions the 2013 Heisman Trophy and is regarded as the top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft.

A simple web search of the name 'Teddy Bridgewater' with the term 'NFL Draft' yields pages of results. Often times clicking on those links will bring up a list with his name sitting next to that No. 1 position.

Expectations have risen so high that earlier in the summer Bridgewater took out a $10 million insurance policy to protect against the possible missed financial opportunity should he be injured and subsequently go undrafted.

It is quite a lot of hype for a 20-year-old quarterback, playing in a conference considered the weakest of the automatic BCS qualifiers. However, Bridgewater has been consistently grounded.

"Simple," Bridgewater said as he explained how he plans to remain focused. "We'll remember what happened to us last year. Guys are older and more mature. We have coaches that don't let us think that its all about us."

That quotation illustrates how well Bridgewater has stood up to the pressure that the added attention has created. He has said all the right things during interviews and has shown no sign of regression through offseason camps and practices.

"It was the hardest camp since I've been here," Bridgewater said at the close of fall camp earlier this week, but as always he didn't focus on himself for long. "We worked very hard, but I think we have made a lot progress."

Though there are clearly thousands of fans, writers and pundits that are singing Bridgewater's praises, and deservedly so, his head coach is, expectedly, one of his biggest believers.

"I think that Teddy is an amazing young man. If you look at him, just watching him grow over the years, he's loaded with a ton of athletic ability," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said.

Strong is as confident in Bridgewater's ability to deal with the crushing pressure he will be feeling this season as he is in Bridgewater's skills as a quarterback.

"I think that he can handle it. I think that he knows what's ahead of him and what he has to get accomplished," Strong said.

What is perhaps most interesting about Bridgewater's rise to prominence is that it has largely happened while he has been off the field. Bridgewater obviously put up phenomenal numbers last season and was one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

However, unlike Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel before him, Bridgewater didn't rack up a ton of national awards last season. The accolades will come in 2013 though, as long as the production is there.

A major reason why Bridgewater wasn't in the Heisman or All-America running last season was because, up until the Sugar Bowl, he was regarded as a talented quarterback in a lesser league. Unlike Manziel, Griffin and Newton, Bridgewater wasn't battling nationally ranked teams most weeks.

Bridgewater showed just how skewed that thinking was however, against Florida. He was poised in the pocket, completing 20-of-32 passes for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Gators, a team that ranked fifth in the country in total defense.

He is still in a weaker conference this year, so the margin for error is still small, but he also won't be dismissed if he dominates once again. In a way, Bridgewater really encapsulates the Louisville team as a whole.

Like Bridgewater, Louisville has gone from a good team slighted for its conference connections to one that is ranked in the top 10 and considered one of the contenders for the BCS National Championship to begin 2013.

Going into this season there will be plenty of offensive weapons for Bridgewater and Louisville to rely on. Wide receivers Devante Parker (40 receptions, 744 yards, 10 TDs) and Damian Copeland (50 receptions, 628 yards, two TDs) had great rapport with Bridgewater last season. The backfield is also stuffed with talented backs, including returning starter Senorise Perry as well as former Auburn standout Michael Dyer.

However, the focus, as it has been for months, will be squarely on Bridgewater.

On Sunday he finally gets a chance to go out and prove that all the build-up and hoopla surrounding his name is deserved.

The Sports Network

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