Continuing our preview of the players to watch in the upcoming NCAA Football season, we turn our attention to the man touted as the best Quarterback in the country.
#2. Teddy Bridgewater.
Height: 6 feet, 3 inches.
Weight: 213 lbs.
Draft Projection: 1st-3rd overall (1st round) 2014 Draft.
This years Draft had a distinct lack of Quarterback talent. No signal caller was taken in the top ten, E.J Manuel was the first taken at number 18 by the Buffalo Bills. Top talents a year ago such as Matt Barkley and Geno Smith weren't even taken in the first round, such was team's skepticism on their talents.
This year, things are different.
Introducing Theodore 'Teddy' Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has everything that you look for in a Quarterback, a blue-chip talent that is set to take the college game by storm in 2013. Like number one prospect Jadeveon Clowney, had Bridgewater been eligible for the 2013 Draft he would have, without question, been the first Quarterback taken. He could possibly have been taken first overall given the lack of franchise Quarterbacks currently in the NFL.
How unfortunate for the Chiefs, Jaguars and Raiders of this world that Bridgewater isn't eligible until after his Junior season. He is NFL ready right now and if he continues his meteoric rise to stardom, will be a day one starter in the 2014 NFL season.
Plenty can go wrong between now and then, just ask Matt Barkley. The former USC standout was predicted to be the number one pick this year, but after a disappointing season fell all the way to the fourth round. While nothing is certain, it's hard to envisage someone with the tools Bridgewater has having a sub-par season.
He has been nothing short of a sensation from the moment he set foot on the field as a true freshman in 2010. Bridgewater was named the Big East Rookie of the Year, completing a stunning 64.5 percent of his passes for 2,129 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also showed why he was the sixth best dual-threat Quarterback in the country coming out of High School, running for 265 yards and 4 touchdowns.
If his freshman year was good, then his sophomore season was a joy to behold. Bridgewater had worked incredibly hard on his game during the offseason, which was clearly evident from the outset. His awareness of defensive schemes had improved considerably, as did his adjustments on the line of scrimmage and his confidence in the pocket.
Bridgewater led Louisville to an 11-2 season and to an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, where they upset the Florida Gators. Bridgewater improved his completion percentage to 68.5 percent, throwing for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. He also ran for 237 yards and a touchdown. Bridgewater was particularly impressive during the second half of the season against some difficult opposition. The game against Rutgers was the most the most impressive on film. Bridgewater was phenomenal in the final stages of this game, showing the sort of poise you would expect from an NFL Quarterback, not a sophomore in college. Bridgewater didn't start the game, he had a broken left wrist and ankle ligament damage, making his introduction and performance even more remarkable. He led Louisville to an improbable 20-17 victory, completing 20-of-28 for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. If people weren't taking Bridgewater seriously, they were after this game. That showing of bravery will have gone down well with the NFL Scouts who will no doubt be scrutinizing every detail of the Quarterback. Playing hurt is one thing you have to do at some stage of your NFL career and seeing Bridgewater's determination in the face of adversity will have Scouts league-wide raving over his potential.
During the Sugar Bowl, where Louisville shocked number 4 ranked Florida for the most important victory in the schools history, Bridgewater was at his efficient best. Florida's defense had been regarded as one of the most ferocious in the SEC, that was until Bridgewater shredded them for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, going an impressive 20-32 in a dazzling display. The Florida defense were raving about Bridgewater's ability, with safety Matt Elam declaring he was the best Quarterback they had that season. He has established himself as one of the premiere signal callers in College Football and it's such a shame that there can't be exceptions to the rule of declaring early for the draft.
The NFL's loss in Louisville's gain, they have an easy schedule in 2013 and will once again be playing in a high profile bowl game in the new year. Bridgewater is a leading candidate for the Heisman trophy and we can expect his statistics to improve due to the lack of competition the Cardinals will face this year.
Watching film on the former four-star high school recruit, you can't help but be impressed. While he isn't the tallest, there are successful Quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL who are smaller, so his size is of no great concern. Bridgewater has great arm strength and has a natural accuracy that will ensure he will be a starter in the NFL in 2014. His deep ball accuracy is particularly impressive, making several eye-catching throws throughout last season.
Bridgewater's poise in the pocket is his most impressive trait. He is very patient and willing to take what the defense gives him. His footwork allows him to be very elusive without having to move too much, with his eyes firmly down the field at all times. It will need to improve slightly when he gets to the NFL, but he has a good base for which to build and has shown a willingness to get better.
His toughness and composure will also have caught the eye of the NFL scouts. This ability to play hurt emphasizes just what a great leader he could potentially be at the next level. Players tend to believe in a Quarterback more if he is willing to do whatever it takes to win, regardless of any pain he could possibly be in.
Bridgewater reads defenses supremely well and remains calm in even the most critical of situations. He has the full selection of throws in his arsenal and goes through his reads quickly. His mobility is also key, he is able to run out of the backfield should the opportunity present itself and had some success with this in college. His style of play has drawn comparison with Andrew Luck, a mobile Quarterback with a strong arm who has the potential to be a franchise QB in the NFL, something half the league is desperate for.
There's no doubt that Bridgewater will selected in the first three picks in next years draft. He may even be selected number one overall, depending on who is selecting at the top of the Draft next year. Chances are it will be a struggling team on the lookout for a Quarterback to change their fortunes. While Jadeveon Clowney is a once-in-a generation talent, a team only go as far as a Quarterback takes them. This is a strong draft for Quarterbacks, so Bridgewater will have to have a dominant Junior season to be the first player taken in the Draft.
If he continues to develop in 2013, we could have a superstar on our hands.
Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
Next week: Heisman trophy winning Quarterback Johnny Manziel come under the spotlight.