Teddy Bridgewater

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looks to recover from an inconsistent season and fight to remain the starter.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones kick-started his college career by lighting up the scoreboard against some of the best competition in the nation and winning a national championship in his first three games. The offensive outburst by the redshirt sophomore prompted an outpouring of praise for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and his ability to recruit and coach a roster with three All-American caliber quarterbacks.

Back on the 40 Acres, the mood was a little more gloomy. Jones’ downfield rockets and Meyer’s bold and creative play calling stood in stark contrast to the Longhorns’ dismal performance at the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, where the burnt orange and white accumulated only 59 yards of total offense.

If the Longhorns want to rejoin Ohio State as college football royalty, they will need to find a quarterback and coaching duo to lead the way. The options at quarterback look promising, as Texas will likely burn freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard’s redshirt next season, and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will have the off season to develop. Kyler Murray, five-star quarterback recruit and Texas A&M commit, even stopped by the University of Texas campus for a visit Wednesday.

The tutelage of Shawn Watson, Texas’ assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks, who coached current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, is set to launch one of the Longhorn quarterbacks into All-American consideration. At this point, however, it is hard to tell if Watson is the right man to coach Heard, Swoopes or any other quarterback on the roster.

Watson was a member of head coach Charlie Strong’s staff at Louisville when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater, but it is still unclear at the moment whether it was Watson who bolstered Bridgewater to prominence or the other way around.

When at Louisville, Bridgewater was a mobile quarterback who could still thrive when sitting back and embracing his role as a pocket passer. Watson tried to run a similar offense in his first year of play-calling duties at Texas, but to no avail.

Swoopes showed he is not Bridgewater, as he often looked uncomfortable dropping back and scanning the defense — a requirement for a pocket passer. When the offense went downhill in the Kansas State game, Watson and the rest of the staff seemed to make little effort to change the game plan in order to attempt to use Swoopes’ powerful legs to their advantage.

Heard is the clear next-in-line if the “Tyrone Swoopes experiment” does not work out, but his blazing speed appears to be better suited for an offense that avoids under-center sets and embraces the option. It has yet been determined whether Heard can achieve success when sitting back and reading a defense. If he cannot do so, the Longhorns will have to spend springtime courting pocket passers or start making serious changes to the offense.

Watson showed moments of brilliance as a play caller, even with a patchwork offensive line. But if Watson’s young quarterbacks prove incapable of being pocket passers during spring practice, he will have to put Louisville’s formula for success behind him and tweak the offense in a way that better incorporates his quarterbacks’ skill sets.

While the Longhorns have struggled this season with a 2-4 record, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for head coach Charlie Strong, who had the same starting record in his second season at Louisville.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

It was just his second year at Louisville, but Charlie Strong surely had high expectations for his Cardinals in 2011.

With a full season under his belt, Strong had already had the chance to instill his values and hard-nosed playing style in a program that included several talented athletes, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and safety Calvin Pryor, who both went on to be first round picks in this year’s NFL draft.

As expected, the Cardinals beat Murray State, an FCS team, in the season opener in 2011, but the 21-7 victory was less than convincing and proved to be an indication of what was to come. Louisville went on to drop four of its next five games, all by nine points or fewer and found itself at 2-4 by the season’s midway point.

Three years later, now in his first season at Texas, the script looks awfully familiar for Strong and his staff, many of whom were with him at Louisville.

Strong hasn’t had as much time with the Longhorns as he did with the Cardinals, but the rough start to his inaugural season in Austin is eerily similar to the one he had in his second year at Louisville.

Texas opened this season with what appeared to be a convincing win over North Texas but, in hindsight, was likely just the result of the Longhorns taking advantage of a particularly weak Mean Green opponent.

Since then, Strong’s team has lost four of five games, with its lone victory coming against Kansas, another feeble foe. The losses, however, have come against some of the top teams in the nation, and Texas has hung around for at least the first two quarters in each of its losses.

“I just don’t think [our record] represents who we are,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said. “We’ve definitely been growing the past couple of weeks and just came up short on those losses that we’ve taken.”

For Strong’s 2011 Cardinals team, the halfway point proved also to be the turning point. After the rough start, Louisville bounced back with wins over Rutgers and Syracuse before a statement victory over West Virginia, which was a ranked team at the time.

“We were going to West Virginia, not knowing if we even had a chance,” Strong said. “That’s when they had quarterback Geno [Smith] and the receivers. Then we end up going up there and beating them, and that gave us some juice.”

With Bridgewater at the helm, the Cardinals went on to win two of their final three games after beating the Mountaineers and finished the regular season 7-5 — good enough to gain bowl eligibility.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is no Bridgewater, but his performance last Saturday against Oklahoma proved he is capable of leading this team to an equally strong finish this season.

A win at home against a struggling Iowa State team this weekend would give the Longhorns some momentum heading into next week’s matchup with Kansas State — one that could provide Texas with a season-changing victory much like Louisville’s win over West Virginia three years ago.

However, that’s all speculative. What is known is that Texas’ first six games have been virtually identical to that of the 2011 Louisville team. Now, it’s up to Strong, his staff and the players, to try and duplicate the second half as well.

When the offseason began, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the consensus number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

During his three seasons at Louisville, Bridgewater threw 72 touchdowns and ran for six touchdowns. In his last two, Bridgewater led the Cardinals to 22 wins, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. 

But, after a poor showing at the NFL Combine and Louisville’s Pro Day, Bridgewater is trying to salvage his promising draft stock.

Bridgewater has all of the intangibles. He has a solid arm and enough speed to outrun the blitz.

NFL.com scouts say that even though he doesn’t have an ‘elite’ arm he makes up for it with “prototype measurables with the intangibles and football intelligence that could elevate the other 52 players around him.”

Scouts aren’t questioning Bridgewater’s skills but rather his substandard performances in the NFL Combine and Louisville Pro Day.

 “[Bridgewater] should [have] aced this test easily,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said. “This was the rare occurrence where a quarterback comes out and does not perform as well as the tape. I wonder why … (NFL teams) all wanted to be wowed. None of them were.”

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco was dissatisfied with Bridgewater’s display of arm strength.

“Bridgewater's arm was a bit of disappointment to me,” Prisco said. “I expected more. It was pretty good, but it's far from the gun that many said it was. I think he sometimes tried to get too cute with his throws rather than using the power he can sometimes show.”

Subsequently, Bridgewater’s projection has gone from the potential number one draft pick to a mid-to-late first round pick.

But that doesn’t concern Bridgewater, he is just focused on getting better.

After his pro day, Bridgewater didn’t convey a sense of disappointment. Instead he remained optimistic.

“Me being a perfectionist, it was nowhere near where I wanted it to be,” Bridgewater said. “But it’s a learning process. You can take away some things from those throws … Overall, I felt I had a great day throwing the football.”

Although his draft stock has fallen, Bridgewater remains focused on the big picture. He knows that he is going to get drafted and he may have to step in and start during his rookie season.

  “I just pay no attention to it — where my stock is,” Bridgewater said. “The draft can go anyway. I just continue, like I said, to control what I can control.”


The NFL’s top prospects gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium over the past week to participate in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. The first opportunity for many potential draftees to showcase their raw talent in front of NFL scouts.


As always, some prospects stole the show and others failed to impress. Here is our list of prospects who stood out and those who flopped.


Standouts


DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)


Entering the combine, all eyes were on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but it was Aaron Donald who outshined Clowney. Some scouts believe that Donald is undersized at 6 feet, 285 pounds but he silenced many doubters with his combine performance. Donald ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, had a 32-inch vertical jump and put up 32 reps in the 225-pound bench press.


With his dazzling display, Donald has upped his stock to a mid-first round pick. 


CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) and CB Jason Verrett (TCU)


As wide receivers become stronger and faster, athletic defensive backs have become increasingly more desirable.


Justin Gilbert put himself on the map during the combine. Gilbert showcased great speed by running a 4.37 40-yard dash. Gilbert really stood out in the position drills. “He looked fluid in his transitions and turns while also exhibiting a quick and efficient backpedal,” NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks said.


Gilbert’s performance has put him in the conversation as a potential top-10 pick.


Already projected as a top defensive back in this year’s draft, Jason Verrett confirmed his standing with a great combine performance. Verrett ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, had a 39-inch vertical jump and showed off his athletic ability during his positional drills.


QB Blake Bortles (UCF)


Considered a hybrid quarterback, the spotlight was fixed on Blake Bortles as quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel chose not to throw at the combine.


Bortles didn’t disappoint. The big man displayed a smooth release and great footwork.

Although he wasn’t perfect - Bortles was late on a few passes and had some issues with the seven-step drop - his performance was enough to bring him into the conversation to be drafted by the Houston Texans with the first overall selection.


Flops


OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)

Entering the combine, Cyrus Kouandijo was projected to be a first round draft pick but he failed his combine physical because of a knee injury. His 40 time was one of the lowest of the offensive tackles and he struggled during positional drills.


This was a huge blow to Kouandijo’s draft stock. Kouandijo will have a chance at redemption during Alabama’s pro day on March 12th.


QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)


Ranked as high as number one on draft boards, Teddy Bridgewater is considered the most polished quarterback in this year’s draft. But Bridgewater’s decision to forego most of the quarterback drills at the combine has caused scouts to question his ability.


Bridgewater will have a chance to prove himself when he goes through quarterback drills at Louisville’s pro day.


DE/OLB Michael Sam (Missouri)


Michael Sam gained worldwide attention after his recent coming-out. However, Sam didn’t impress during his combine workout. Sam ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and only jumped 25.5 in the vertical.


Sam was obviously frustrated during the combine but he seems to be prepared for the next level. “I’m a pass rusher," Sam said. "If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback.”


Sam will attempt to raise his draft stock at Missouri’s pro day.

Until Clemson faces Florida State later this month, quarterback Tajh Boyd will have to feast on ACC cellar dwellers Boston College and Syracuse. He currently holds the top of this week's Heisman Watch but fellow quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater are not far behind. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

1. Tajh Boyd, Senior QB, Clemson:

Last Week (W, 56-7, Wake Forest): 17-for-24, 311 yards, 3 TD (69 rush yds, TD)

Season: 73-for-114 (64.0%), 994 yards, 9 TD (159 rush yards, 4 TD)

Boyd remains at the top of the list and will stay there until the Tigers either lose or someone proves they deserve this spot more. His campaign has slowed recently due to not being in any high-profile game. But his season-opening victory over Georgia looks better and better each week as the Bulldogs continue to win. Boyd’s competition will continue to hold him back until he plays Florida State at home on Oct 19, which will likely have national title implications as well.

 

2. Marcus Mariota, Sophomore QB, Oregon:

Last Week (W, 55-16, Cal): 11-for-25, 114 yards, 2 TD (33 rush yards, TD)

Season: 60-for-107 (56.1%), 1,003 yards, 9 TD (295 rush yards, 5 TD)

Another week, another 40-point win for the Ducks. Oregon has yet to score fewer than 55 points in a game this season and has not allowed 20 points in a game yet. The Ducks haven’t been challenged and won’t really be tested until a midseason stretch against Washington, UCLA and Stanford, all of whom are in the Top 15. Mariota will put up big numbers, but completing 44 percent of his passes against Stanford will not help his Heisman chances. The meat of Oregon’s schedule is coming, and Mariota will need to be ready for it.

 

3. Teddy Bridgewater, Senior QB, Louisville:

Last Week: BYE

Season: 79-for-110 (71.8%), 1214 yards, 14 TD, INT

Bridgewater is starting to lose ground to the other contenders as Louisville is starting to lose ground in the national title hunt. Their drubbing of Florida International looks good on paper, but no one really expects much from Florida Internatinal. The Cardinals’ medicore schedule continues to hurt them and this week doesn’t get much harder as Louisville heads to Temple to square off against the winless Owls. The Cardinals can’t just pummel cupcakes all season and expect to get respect from voters of any kind.

 

4. Johnny Manziel, Sophomore QB, Texas A&M:

Last Week (W, 45-33, Arkansas) : 23-for-30, 261 yards, 2 TD (59 rush yards)

Season: 100-for-140 (71.4%), 1489 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT (314 rush yds, 3 TD)

Manziel is back on the list despite all of his shenanigans because the kid seems to know how to play some football despite not knowing how to stay out of the spotlight. He is being incredibly efficient with the ball this season, completing at least 66 percent of his passes in each of the first five games. Though he only has four interceptions so far this season, the two against Alabama were costly. Road games against Ole Miss and LSU will be tough, but wins will go a long way toward leading Manziel to another Heisman Trophy.

 

5. AJ McCarron, Senior QB, Alabama:

Last Week (W, 25-0, Ole Miss): 25-for-32, 180 yards, INT

Season: 75-for-110, 882 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT

Alabama put on a defensive clinic in a shutout of Ole Miss. McCarron, meanwhile, did not do as well. He did not have a touchdown for the first time this season and the Crimson Tide did not find the end zone until the second half. Alabama will hold onto the No. 1 ranking this week, and only have a few marquee games left this season. He is already having to fight the perception that he relies on his defense more than it relies on him. McCarron will need to be on top of his game if he wants to take home the Heisman.

1. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd (Sr.)

Boyd’s win over Georgia still holds up as the most impressive win of the short season-especially considering Georgia’s win over South Carolina last week. He had a nice game against South Carolina State as Clemson begins conference play this week. He will still be off the radar until a mid-October matchup against Florida State. That will be the stage for Boyd to show that he is indeed the top dog for the Heisman trophy.

 

2. Georgia RB Todd Gurley (So.)

Gurley has the second-best performance of the season by leading his team to a win over South Carolina after the close loss to Clemson. Gurley has rushed for at least 100 yards in both games against Top 10 opponents. Gurley has kept Georgia in the national title chase and with games against LSU and Florida remaining, he has a more favorable schedule than other candidates. 

 

3. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater (Jr.)

Bridgewater continues to impress against inferior competition and may be the most talented player in the country. He has NFL scouts salivating but his opponents are nothing compared to that of other candidates’ foes. Bridgewater and Louisville not only need to win, but need to win convincingly get into the Heisman and national title hunt. It has to impossible to pick anyone other than him.

 

4. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (So.)

He will put up great numbers all year long. His rushing yardage will keep him in the discussion for most of the season but he’ll need to improve his passing stats if he wants to keep the Ducks undefeated. Road games against Washington and Stanford will be very tough and a home matchup against UCLA will be no cakewalk. If he can’t produce form the pocket, then Oregon will likely go down in at least one of those games which will put him behind in the Heisman race. 

 

5. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel (So.)

Manziel’s antics didn’t hurt him against lowly Sam Houston State, but that could change this week against Alabama. This is the game that the country has been waiting for all offseason as Alabama goes to College Station looking for revenge for what the Aggies did to it last season. Manziel took the lead in the Heisman race with this game last season and another performance could have similar results for him this season. This is the opportunity to remind the nation why he won the Heisman last season and why he should be the guy to win it again. 

1. Tajh Boyd, Senior QB, Clemson:

Previous Game: 18-30, 270 yards, three touchdowns

Season: 18-30, 270 yards, three touchdowns

Being the only player on the list with a marquee win in this short season, Boyd has placed himself atop the Heisman list by helping Clemson beat Georgia last week. He’s making a name for himself while changing the philosophy of a program. Clemson has long had a stigma of failing on the big stage. As the Tigers' leader, Boyd is leading them to a conference and national title contention. 

 

2. Teddy Bridgewater, Junior QB, Louisville:

Previous Game: 23-28, 355 yards, five touchdowns, one interception

Season: 23-28, 355 yards, five touchdowns, one interception

The knock on the Cardinals coming into the season was never over their talent, but over their schedule. A perfect regular season may not earn them a national title shot but Bridgewater’s performance on Sunday forced the voters to seriously consider Louisville. If he continues to play the way he did in Week One, he’ll be in the running for a Heisman and a national championship.

 

3. Jameis Winston, Freshman QB, Florida State:

Previous Game: 25-27, 356 yards, four touchdowns

Season: 25-27, 356 yards, four touchdowns

He’s only played one game, but he looked pretty good in it. There’s almost no way that he will be able to continue those numbers throughout the season, but if he can keep his production up, then he’ll earn Heisman consideration. Johnny Manziel proved a freshman can win the Heisman last year and Winston looks better than any other contender for the award. So why not put him up here? 

 

4. Marcus Mariota, Sophomore QB, Oregon:

Previous Game: 12-21, 234 yards, one touchdown

Season: 12-21, 234 yards, one touchdown

Mariota is the lone player represented from the West Coast and another young, exciting quarterback on the list. He’ll continue to put up big numbers every week until he begins to face some of the big names in the Pac-12. A road game against Washington in mid-October will be the first time he faces a legitimate contender so, until then, we’ll have to wait and watch as he puts up ridiculous numbers against weaker competition.

 

5. Jadeveon Clowney, Junior DE, South Carolina:

Previous Game: three tackles

Season: three tackles

Clowney didn’t play like a Heisman contender last Thursday. He didn’t play like the projected top overall pick in the draft, nor did he look like the kind of dominant player that many expected him to be. He looked tired, sluggish, disinterested and one-dimensional at times. Everyone gets one mulligan, especially early in the season, but he can’t afford to get stood up at the line of scrimmage against Georgia. Aaron Murray may not be the biggest guy, but he is a capable quarterback and Gurley will be looking to take Clowney’s spot on this list, which he may deserve more based on their Week One performances. We’ve heard the excuses, now it's time to see if Clowney is the real deal.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

1. QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)

Manziel, possibly reluctantly, returns to College Station after an SEC recordbreaking 2012 campaign in which he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Though Manziel showed a lack of maturity this off-season and defenses will be able to better gameplan for him, Manziel could join Archie Griffin as the only twotime Heisman winners ever.

 

2. QB Braxton Miller (Ohio State)

Miller was stellar in his second year for Griffin’s alma mater, throwing for 15 touchdowns and only six interceptions while rushing for 13 more scores. As a result of his impact, Ohio State was the only undefeated team in the FBS at year’s end, and probably would’ve played for a national title if they weren’t ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. Miller is one of the clear favorites to win the Heisman, alongside Manziel. 

 

Jadeveon Clowney
DE, South Carolina

Clowney enters the season as NFL-ready as any player in recent history. If he plays at a historic level and leads the Gamecocks to the next level of success, he has a legitimate shot to win the Heisman, having finished sixth in voting in 2012. Clowney strikes fear in all he plays against, and thanks to the media buzz from his hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl against Michigan, has become a household name to even casual football viewers.

 

Teddy Bridgewater
QB, Louisville

Bridgewater’s best shot at the Heisman is to continue his play from the Sugar Bowl and he has all the tools do so, as evidenced by his $10 million insurance policy. Louisville’s weak schedule as a member of the hodgepodge American Athletic Conference should boost Bridgewater’s numbers, but will also make a perfect regular season imperative if he is to win the Heisman.

 

TJ Yeldon
RB, Alabama

Yeldon is somewhat of a darkhorse pick, but should continue the line of Nick Saban coached running backs who have had stellar seasons as the featured back. As a freshman in 2012 Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns despite being the backup to Eddie Lacy, the 61 stpick in this year’s NFL Draft. Now Yeldon is expected to more touches, which opens up the possibility of winning the Tide’s second Heisman.