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First-year head coach Charlie Strong is familiar with the big stage. Strong was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida for seven years, where in that span, the Gators won multiple National Championships. Strong was a big part of the recruiting machine that was in Gainesville, as he helped bring in the likes of Janoris Jenkins, Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap and Major Wright — all players, who compete in the NFL today.
Now, in just his first year with full recruiting leverage, Strong landed arguably the biggest recruit in Louisville football history.
Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native, was a long-time University of Miami commit, however things changed with the firing of Randy Shannon. Like in many cases when a coach leaves a program, many recruits start to look elsewhere in their college search. Bridgewater proceeded to field offers from big-time football programs in the best overall conference like, Florida, LSU and Tennessee.
However, Bridgewater decided to call Louisville, which finished 6-6 in 2010 in the Big East, his new home.
Strong, who has great routes in the state of Florida, lured Bridgewater in and got a verbal commitment on Dec. 10. Bridgewater is listed as a dual-threat quarterback with 4.6 speed. According to Rivals, Bridgewater is the second best “dual-threat” quarterback in the country and an overall solid 4-star prospect.
Louisville hasn’t had a season over .500 since a 12-1 Orange Bowl appearance in 2006, led by second round draft pick Brian Brohm. Since then, the Cardinals have seen meritocracy with both Adam Froman and Justin Burke at the helm. Although in the past Bridgewater has said he wants to redshirt is freshman year, that was when some anticipated him to sign with LSU. With 5’10″ Will Stein the next in line at the quarterback position for Strong and Co., Bridgewater may see the field a lot sooner than he previous anticipated.
For coach Strong, this puts the program on the map. It’s not every year when an inconsistent Big East team can steal such a prolific recruit that was recruited by schools in the SEC, a conference that has the the highest NFL ratio. Louisville currently has the best recruiting class in the Big East, with a total 22 commits, which include Bridgewater and fellow 4-star quarterback DeMarcus Smith.
Strong’s turnaround for Louisville hasn’t stopped there. Tonight, Strong leads his team in their first bowl game since 2006 as they take on a strong Southern Mississippi team in the Beef O’Brady’s bowl. A nationally televised game, this will provide a big stage for Louisville to show people that they’re on the up-swing.
With TCU joining the Big East for the 2012-2013 season and other usual suspects like West Virginia, Connecticut and Pittsburgh still atop the conference, don’t be surprised to see Louisville become a prominent Big East program in the near future.