Is Will Gardner Ready to Lead Louisville Cardinals in 2014?

By Tyler Brett
will gardner
Howard Smith – USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater has distinguished himself as one of the best quarterbacks in college football with the Louisville Cardinals over the last three seasons. So it’s come as no surprise that the quarterback will enter the 2014 NFL Draft where he’s projected to be the No. 1 overall pick to the Houston Texans. For Bridgewater, it’s a big step forward as he moves to the next level. Louisville, meanwhile, must begin making plans for life after Bridgewater as they likely turn the offense over to Will Gardner in 2014. Is he ready to lead Louisville into the ACC?

As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Gardner served as the backup to Bridgewater and saw limited action this season. He appeared in five games, completing 8-of-12 passes for 112 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Coaches have raved about his ability to throw the football and fell that he has tremendous upside. The former top-rated quarterback recruit out of Georgia has bounced back from a torn ACL in 2012 to position himself as the next quarterback for Charlie Strong. His limited experience will likely limit the playbook for the Cards next season, at least in the early going.

His transition will be helped by the decision of another draft eligible junior deciding to return to school next year in leading receiver DeVante Parker. Parker led Louisville in receiving this year with 55 catches for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will lead a veteran receiving corps in 2014 that will be a major help to the young signal caller next season, providing steady and reliable targets for Gardner in the passing game.

The challenge will be a big one for Gardner stepping in for Bridgewater as Louisville makes the transition into a new conference. Can he pick up the offense this offseason to be the leader that the Cardinals need him to be in 2014?

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