U of L defensive coordinator Vance Bedford says Adrian Bushell can become a "shut-down" cornerback.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is what Adrian Bushell did the first time he was scheduled to visit the University of Louisville:
Didn't call. Didn't write. Didn't explain. Didn't seem particularly embarrassed about it.
Bushell had the flight itinerary for his official recruiting trip from Texas to Louisville. He even remembers the name of the Cardinals' assistant coach who arranged the trip – Tony Alford.
Bushell's recruiting profile shows he was a four-star prospect as a defensive back with offers from Florida, California, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Miami and others. Those programs will chase you relentlessly when you can run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds, bench press 250 pounds and carry a 2.7 grade point average.
He visited Oklahoma State, Florida and Texas A&M. Bushell was booked to visit Louisville.
Bushell has no answer when asked why he did not make the visit. A bemused smile winds across his face. Mostly, he shrugs.
"I didn't cancel," he said. "I just didn't show up. I had the itinerary. It's just, that morning I didn't go."
Funny the way it works out. In 2008 Louisville needed Bushell more than Bushell needed Louisville. In 2011 Bushell needed Louisville more than Louisville needed Bushell.
Bushell signed with Florida and then nearly ruined his career in Gainesville. In May 2010 Bushell was told to leave the Gators' program. Even with a 4.4 40, Bushell couldn't outrun his behavior. Bad grades as well as the never defined but never encouraging "off the field issues."
"I liked it (at Florida)," he said. "Unfortunately things didn't work out. But I'm here now. Best shape of my life."
Louisville needs Bushell to deliver at cornerback the same way Teddy Bridgewater delivers at quarterback. Make plays. Make intelligent decisions. Make teammates better.
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford did not have many complaints about his improved unit after last season. He did have this one:
The Cards did not intercept enough passes. Just 10. Great defenses generate more takeaways, creating points and field-position advantage.
Bushell has the skills to make interceptions and take the football a long, long way. In fact, Bedford said that Bushell has the skills to make opposing teams tilt their game plans toward throwing away from Bushell at every opportunity.
But Bushell has to work to do with the sensibility that Bedford and U of L head coach Charlie Strong have tried to coach into him. That didn't always happen in 2011, even though Bushell was fortunate the Cards' coaches gave him another opportunity after he landed in junior college after his Florida dismissal.
Ten games into the season, Bushell was held out of the Pittsburgh game, a week after Louisville's signature victory over West Virginia.
Louisville lost to Pitt in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, 21-14. Give the Cards that victory and they win the Big East title outright and play in the Orange Bowl. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had his second-best passing last season that day, completing 16 of 23 passes, including one for a touchdown.
Where was Bushell?
Here is the answer: He was late for a team meeting, again, an annoying move that inspired Strong to bench him for Pittsburgh. Bushell said it was not the first time he had been late.
"I just overslept," he said. "Not taking care of business. Of course, I was mad. I've got to accept the responsibility and move on and learn from it."
Has he grown up? Bushell says he has. In less than a full year at Louisville he has worked himself into the best shape of his life, adding 15 pounds to his fat-free 5-foot-11, 185-pound body. He is certainly in the discussion for the fastest player on the team, a guy capable of taking kickoffs 100 yards.
He is a senior. Bedford and Strong have asked him to become a leader in a secondary filled with underclassmen. Bushell wants to play in the NFL. He is rated the 50th best cornerback in the nation in the Phil Steele College Yearbook. He should be better than that. This is his final chance to show the scouts he is more of a player than a knucklehead.
"It's up to me," Bushell. "I don't mind the pressure. I feel like I'm ready."