ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore says Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville can become one of college football's top quarterbacks.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Only the Kentucky coaches have watched more videotape of the Louisville football team than Rod Gilmore.
Gilmore, a former Stanford player, has developed into one of the top analysts at ESPN. He approaches his job with the intensity of a prosecutor, which isn't surprising considering he's a graduate of the California-Berkeley law school.
Gilmore has been a regular on Big East telecasts for several seasons and has a pair of assignments for the season's opening weekend.
On Friday Aug. 31, Gilmore will call the Boise State-Michigan State game in East Lansing. Then he'll travel to Louisville to work the UK-U of L game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
That's why Gilmore has been studying Teddy Bridgewater, Hakeem Smith and the rest of Charlie Strong's third U of L football team, the one that has been picked to win the Big East championship. Bridgewater projects as the best quarterback in the Big East this season.
Can he become one of the best quarterbacks in the nation?
"Bridgewater is showing up on the lists of the top quarterbacks for a reason," Gilmore said. "He's got a lot of natural athleticism and ability to play the position.
"He seems to be pretty special, a take-charge guy."
But Gilmore believes that ability is not what separates the top quarterbacks. It's the commitment to watching video, studying defenses, developing chemistry with receivers. Work, work, work – making yourself work even more relentlessly after the world has started recognizing your skills.
"The good quarterbacks become great quarterbacks by working at their craft," Gilmore said. "And the great quarterbacks become elite quarterbacks because they are grinders."
You'd be surprised to hear the names of the guys that Gilmore considers grinders. I was surprised.
Try Kellen Moore of Boise State. Robert Griffin III of Baylor, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner. Andrew Luck of Stanford, the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by Indianapolis.
Grinders? Those three made the position look easy.
"All of those guys got better because they were grinders," Gilmore said. "They worked at it. They really did. They put in the time. They made themselves better players.
"I don't know if Teddy Bridgewater is a grinder or not. If he is, then I believe he can become an elite quarterback."
Accuracy was not a problem for Bridgewater last season. He ranked second in the Big East in completion percentage at 64.5 percent. Only Geno Smith of West Virginia was better, and Smith is considered a Heisman Trophy candidate this fall.
But even though Bridgewater's completion percentage was excellent and he had 14 touchdown passes, he threw too many interceptions – 12, more than any Big East quarterback. For comparison, Brian Brohm completed nearly 69 percent of his throws, with 19 TDs and five picks as a sophomore.
Check the Big East statistics in total offense. There's work to do there, too. Bridgewater ranked sixth in the league at less than 170 yards per game, about half the offense that Smith generated for West Virginia. Bridgewater averaged 5.7 yards per play, which left him 86th nationally in total offense.
Of course, Bridgewater played as a true freshman.
The only freshman quarterbacks with better total offense numbers in 2011 were Sean Mannion of Oregon State, Brett Smith of Wyoming and Cody Fajardo of Nevada. Mannion and Fajardo were redshirt freshmen. Bridgewater's numbers were better than Braxton Miller of Ohio State and Tre Roberson of Indiana.
"When I look at Louisville, there are two keys," Gilmore said.
"How does that team mature? Coach (Charlie) Strong has played a lot of young guys the last two seasons. Now they're a year older.
"And do they find their offensive identity, what it is they really do well? I think if they can answer those two questions the right way, everything else is kind of minor."
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
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