Teddy Bridgewater goes into 2013 as one of the top quarterbacks in the country, a preseason Heisman candidate who made huge leaps between his freshmen and sophomore years.
So the natural question is this -- where will he get better in his junior season? Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson already has a list he wants Bridgewater to work on when spring practice starts later this month. For starters:
1. Reach at least 70 percent completion percentage.
2. Become the No. 1 team in America in red zone efficiency.
3. Convert at least 50 percent on third down.
4. Work on becoming an even better game manager.
5. Work on becoming a more vocal leader.
"Teddy, I can tell you, from management aspects, I think he can grow from what he did well," Watson said in a recent phone interview. "Managing our offense and getting us in the right checks, getting the ball completed and checked down instead of forcing throws. There’s still a higher level of efficiency out there for him to go and achieve.
"There’s so many little things. Like in the red zone, we throw on time to spots. Teddy did a great job of that this year and yet he can still be better. The standard’s high, but now he’s raised the bar even higher. You don’t ever want to be the same."
Start with completion percentage. Last season, Bridgewater completed 68.5 percent of his passes and ranked No. 8 in the nation in passing efficiency. The goal was 70 percent, so he came up just a little short. The goal remains 70 percent, a number that only three starting quarterbacks hit last season. But because the Cardinals play a version of the West Coast offense, Watson believes that mark is attainable.
"We should be 70 plus because of the way our offense is built and the people we’re playing with," Watson said. "He’s got a great group of guys he’s working with, and he knows that."
Next up, more efficiency on third down and the red zone. Louisville made huge leaps in both categories in 2012. Louisville tied for No. 3 in red zone efficiency, converting 53 of 57 drives inside the 20. Compare that to 2011: Louisville ranked No. 45, converting 31 of 37 trips in the red zone.
As for third-down efficiency, Louisville ranked No. 8 in the nation in this category in 2012, converging 49.73 percent of the time. Compare that to 2011: Louisville ranked No. 75, converting only 39.36 percent of the time.
As for being a more vocal leader, Watson says, "Teddy is a leader by example. I want the passion for the game that’s inside of him, I want him to let it out. When he speaks, everybody listens because he’s humble, he’s hard working, he’s a performer, he has a lot of credibility based on performance. At the end of the year, he would let it out on a consistent basis. We're just looking for more consistency."
Watson has no worries about Heisman talk getting to Bridgewater. And you can bet that discussion won't be taking place in his office.
"We are going to stay humble and stay hungry," Watson said. "It’s not a cliché. I try to approach my life that way and I want people to make sure I stay that way. I want to make sure Teddy stays that way. We don’t want to get caught up in the hype. If we do our job and we execute our job, all those things that are supposed to happen will happen. They’ll come to you. I’m excited about next year because of all the pieces we have coming back, what we’re adding to it. We’ve got to go out and earn it, though.
"It’s an honor to be in that discussion, but we can’t get caught up in it. We’ll keep our feet grounded."