At least 26 scouts will be watching Teddy Bridgewater when Louisville plays Rutgers Thursday night.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jadeveon Clowney has sore ribs. Or tender toes. Acid reflux? Something isn't right in South Carolina, and I don't care how Steve Spurrier spins it forward.
I do know this: When this college football season began Clowney ranked first on the 2014 NFL Draft board. Today Clowney ranks 15th – on the South Carolina tackling list for the 2013 season.
Clowney has delivered 12 tackles in four games. Two were sacks.
Clowney might still be the first NFL pick next April. He has the muscle, speed and size that makes NFL coaches hyperventilate. But Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota of Oregon, another quarterback, have become better bets. Ask the flock of NFL scouts headed to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
The Jadeveon Clowney narrative has changed. Before the season, all the conversation was about The Hit that Clowney delivered against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.
Clowney peaked too soon. It was just one play. It looked like a missed block. But now the world expects Clowney to deliver another hit like The Hit every weekend.
It's not happening. Check the Southeastern Conference defensive statistics. You won't find Clowney's name anywhere among the leaders. Before the season people suggested that Clowney should limit his exposure to injuries and wait for the NFL.
Is that what he's doing?
Into that void comes Bridgewater. Guess how many NFL scouts have requested credentials for the Cardinals' Thursday night game against Rutgers in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium?
The current number is 26 (representing 20 teams), although there is still time for the crowd to grow before the 7:30 kickoff. ESPN is televising the game across the nation.
These aren't guys simply passing through town. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the franchise likely to have the first pick in the draft. The Jaguars have requested three seats, including one for general manager David Caldwell.
Pittsburgh sits at 0-4. The Steelers will be represented by their general manager, Kevin Colbert. Tampa is the NFL's other winless team. Eric Stokes, the Bucs' director of scouting, has a credential. Everybody wants to see Bridgewater.
Bridgewater is not missing from the NCAA statistical leaderboard or from the college football sports-talk narrative. He ranks in the Top 10 nationally in touchdown passes (16), completion percentage (71.7) and passing yards (1,562).
If Bridgewater continues performing at his current rate, he will throw for 4,061 yards, enough to eclipse the U of L record (4,042) that Chris Redman set in 1998.
His story has certainly gone national. Bridgewater is featured in a jumbo spread in the current issue of Sports Illustrated, titled, "Teddy Football," written by Pete Thamel. Unlike Clowney, Bridgewater is not being asked why he isn't doing all the things that he did last season.
Bridgewater talks about how he became homesick during his first year at Louisville and considered returning to Miami. He started his freshman season on the bench behind Will Stein and asked coach Charlie Strong if he could switch to receiver simply to get on the field. You know what Strong said about that.
You also know the rest of the story. Stein was injured against Kentucky. Bridgewater took over and threw a pair of touchdown passes. U of L ended a four-game losing streak against the Wildcats. The arc of the program shifted – Beef O'Brady Bowl (2010), Belk Bowl (2011), Sugar Bowl (2012) … yet to be determined.
Hundreds of talented players have emerged from the high schools in Miami to become NFL players. But the knock on players from Dade County has been that they can't make it at quarterback. Bridgewater wants to change that.
"Teddy is a unique player," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood told NJ.com this week. "He's a special football player. There's no doubt when they talk about the best quarterbacks (in college football) that he's in the conversation. He deserves that."
Now, unlike Jadeveon Clowney, Bridgewater is right where he was supposed to be. He has directed Louisville to wins in the Cardinals first five games. He is a prime Heisman Trophy contender.
Teddy Bridgewater is a quarterback that 26 NFL scouts plan to watch during his national television moment against Rutgers Thursday night.