University of Louisville – Offensive Press Conference Coach Shawn Watson Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Shawn Watson from the University of Louisville. Shawn, an opening statement.
COACH WATSON: We’re excited to be here. It’s been a good Bowl prep period for us. We’ve had a number of practices, obviously, back home in Louisville, had really good practices, gave us a chance to get mended up, get healthy in some spots we were nicked up, and once we got into what was our game plan prep, we’ve had really good practices and got down here and have had great hospitality and it’s been a good stay thus far.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Looking at Florida’s defense, why do you think they’ve been so successful against good quarterbacks?
COACH WATSON: Well, you know, they play number one, they have great talent. All across the board, and they have depth besides talent. That tends to lead to success, because what they do schematically is very good.
I know that they highlight players. They’ve got excellent players really in every level of the defense, first, second and third level. So they play a style that really lends to really making you they can really rush four guys. They don’t have to put a lot of pressure on you, because they’re so good up front.
They have lockdown people in the back end. Their safeties are good coverage players. Their linebackers can cover. They have every piece defensively you could ever want.
Q. Talk about Teddy Bridgewater and his versatility and things he challenges the defense with.
COACH WATSON: Teddy, from day one, he’s been a great student of the game. His understanding of the game, his anticipation, because he does understand what we do conceptually. He gets it. He understands football. It goes slow for him. So that enables him to play.
He’s a great decisionmaker. He can create in and out of the pocket. He’s the best football player I’ve ever coached. I mean, he’s a very talented young man. And he’s got great character to go along with it.
The Rutgers game is just kind of what we know of Teddy, what his habit has been around our facility. That’s just who he is. He always gives it up for his teammates. Loves to play the game. There’s no way he wasn’t going to play in that Rutgers game. And real honestly he was playing on one leg and with one arm. And he went out and had a heck of played a great game for us. He just wills himself to great moments.
And I think he has great talent, but he has great character. And that’s what I mean by that. He’s a good decisionmaker. He’s got arm talent. He’s got leg talent. And he’s got the character to go with it.
Q. And how critical has been recruiting the state of Florida for the Louisville program?
COACH WATSON: It’s been huge for us. Charlie, obviously with his background, number of our assistant coaches are from and have experience in Florida recruiting. There’s a lot of strong ties with our staff to the high school coaches and the community of coaches down there.
So it’s been huge for us. We have 34 players that are from Florida. And those kids are the kids that have turned around our program.
Q. Not all kids want to have the burden put on them that you guys put on Teddy. Can you just talk about how he’s been able to accept that and do everything you’ve asked him to do?
COACH WATSON: Yeah, we’ve put a lot on our quarterback. We run a prostyle offense. He has to make a lot of decisions for us in every aspect of the game.
He gets us in the right play at the line of scrimmage many times. He fixes our protection at the line of scrimmage. Plus then he’s making pass decisions, and he is a coach on the field. And it’s been remarkable for me because most of the time I’ve been doing this 30 years and coaching this position for 20 of those 30, and I’ve never had a guy who could do so much so early.
He just has a high football intelligence that goes along with his competitiveness. I mean, Teddy, he just wills himself. He sees himself succeeding at everything he does. So we put a lot of responsibility on him, and he’s from day one he evolved. We really raised him last year through the season once he became a starter after the Kentucky game, and it was a process.
I challenged him in the offseason, when we went through our scheme evaluation in the winter, I was pretty critical of his play. And I wanted to set a point with him that these are things if you want to be a great quarterback, you have to do.
And most of it centered around managing the game. And that’s where he’s grown so much, and the thing that’s awesome about Teddy is Teddy wants to be coached hard. He really challenges me as a coach. He wants to be coached hard. He wants to be a great player.
He does not want me to be easy on him. He wants me to be tough on him, and he expects that out of me. So it’s a great relationship. When you have a kid that wants to do that, who wants to chase excellence, you get a great player.
That’s why he’s become the player he’s become. So we put a lot on him because the style of our offense, his character again like I’ve said is really what helps he makes our world go. He does everything for us.
Q. With everything that Teddy did in that Rutgers game, there was a moment afterwards that was captured of you and him hugging outside the locker room. Can you share why that moment was so powerful for you and what you told him?
COACH WATSON: He’s just done so much. He really played his heart out. And he wanted we went into that game, and I really honestly no one really knows this, he had his first seven on seven before we got on the plane to take off. We actually gave him the seven on seven so he could throw the base offense.
He had thrown and shared reps with Will the day before in a red zone seven on seven, and I didn’t know if he could play, if it would be the right thing to play him.
Before the game, he said: Coach, I can go. I can do this. If you need me I can go. Because we went into that game thinking we weren’t going to be able to play him. We really did.
And there came a time when he just, after we had I think it was our third series, he said he got on the headset and said: Coach, I can do this. I can go.
So when you got a guy that gives up for his team, he gave it up for those guys, because he knew the importance of that game. It was going to put us into this situation we’re in today. That’s just the kid he is. He has great character. That’s what people don’t know about him.
And I just appreciate him. I do.
Q. Shawn, does Matt Elam compare to anybody that you’ve played this season, and is he one of those guys who, as you’re coming up to center, you have to account for him every play?
COACH WATSON: Yeah, he’s a great player. I’ve sat back and watched him play. Obviously we have every one of their games. And you see what a great player is and you appreciate his style of play. He’s a very physical player. He can cover. He embodies everything that you want in a player at that position.
He’s a guy that can impact the game. He can wreck the game for you. So we have to account for him. He’s an excellent football player. And, again, I think the staff there at Florida does a great job of using him to put him in positions to execute for them.
He’s come up with several big plays. And as you watch him, he brings a lot to the table with his physical style. He does it all. He’s a great player.
Q. What are some of the things that Charlie has done behind the scenes that kind of ensures that the program is going to be pointed in the right direction, is making the progress that it needs to make?
COACH WATSON: The thing that’s beautiful about this situation we have from Charlie all the way through our staff to our training staff, he really empowers all of us to have we’re all on the same page. And there’s one voice in the program. And he sets the tone. He sets the tone for what we do. He’s a disciplinarian. We expect things to be done a certain way. There’s a certain style that we want. We want to be we challenge our kids to chase perfection and we know along the way we’ll catch excellence. And that’s just the way we’ve managed our team the entire time I’ve been with them.
I’ve been with Charlie two of the three years. And I think Charlie does a great job of the kids know, the staff knows that he has our back and he’s with them. And he sets the tone we expect excellence. And we’ve been chasing that.
And the kids we’ve evolved. Where we’ve come from like one point last year we were two and four and we started playing younger kids. And Teddy was part of that group of kids we started playing.
We said we’re going to develop these kids. And then we had to really finish strong last season and had the season we had this season in terms of how we started and how we’ve ended. There’s always bumps. Charlie’s never changed. So he’s always kept a consistent message out there, consistent vision out there, and he’s empowered all of us to do our jobs.
I mean, that’s, I think, his strength is he has a lot of faith and trust in us. And we in him. And there’s one voice because of that. And I think our kids are able they know what to expect. There’s not a mixed message. There’s not what’s going to be this way this day and another way another day. It’s always the same.
So when it’s that way, kids can grow and you can develop not only players but you can develop most importantly young men, because we’re a young team. We’re really a lot of sophomores right now playing.
And those kids have grown up fairly fast for us, I think, because of the way that Charlie has managed the program. He’s been very consistent in his approach, very demanding in his approach so the kids know what to expect.
Q. Young guys, was that a hard decision? Was that just a pretty quick decision, pretty decisive?
COACH WATSON: What happened is the group of kids came in as freshmen and they started earning those positions. You could see they were becoming they were going to be the players and they were going to unseat some of the upperclassmen, and there was a lot of competition on the field, which is what we wanted to create. And they really earned those positions.
Nothing’s ever given in the program. So they earn those positions. I think what happened, you had to be willing to play those guys knowing they were freshmen, knowing you were going to go through some speed bumps, and we did.
And we just said we’re going to ride it out with them. It ended up being a really good thing. We’re very, very happy that, one, those kids came into the program and we played them. We made a decision to move forward with them.
Q. I have questions about guys from the West Palm area. Nate Nord, how much of a part of your offense is he?
COACH WATSON: What Nate did a year ago we were looking for a tight end that could set the edge for us in the run game, but yet could be playing our offense as a target, too, in the passing game. And Nate’s been able to do that for us. He’s been outstanding for us in the run game. He had an injury about he had two games there that he didn’t get to play a lot of ball for us.
We actually had to put him on the shelf. But other than that, Nate’s had a really solid senior year for us.
It was a much needed year because he’s been able to set the edge for us in the run game and that’s a year ago we didn’t have that at the tight end position.
Q. Mike Romano, he hasn’t played much for you. What do you see for him going forward?
COACH WATSON: Mike’s an offensive center with Mario graduating, he’ll be in the mix next year to be a starter. He’s backed up. He’s part of a 2A and 2B plan and. Right now, as a redshirt freshman, he’s got a bright future ahead of him.
Q. Last guys. You’ve got the two transfers from Florida Clark and Christian, are they staying on offense for you?
COACH WATSON: Yes.
Q. What have you seen from them during practices and workouts and stuff and what do you see going forward?
COACH WATSON: Both those kids will be great players. Robert is going to play an inside slot for us. And he’s got explosive speed and is a sheerhanded catcher and he’s a tough guy, too. I love what I see of him.
And we’ve actually kept both of those, he and Gerald both, a portion of our practice, so that we keep them developed and have them ready in a year.
We’ve kept them up, taught them the offense and we have a seven on seven design and we put those guys in there. We go good on good every day.
And they’ve been a part of that so that they have to develop and learn the offense. And both those guys, Gerald is going to be a great tight end. Gerald’s a heck of a football player. And Robert is, too. They have football in their blood, and they play at a high level.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
University of Louisville – Offensive Press Conference Player Quotes
Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, University of Louisville
On what Louisville Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson said to him after the Rutgers game…
“He just told me that he’s so proud of me and that he loves me. That’s the type of the relationship that he arrived on campus when I arrived on campus, and we built our relationship since then.”
On how he chose to go to Louisville…
“I prayed about it. It was a tough decision leaving home, but it was worth it. I talked with the coaches, I talked with my mom, and she said I have to do what’s best for me.”
On why Florida’s defense has been good against good quarterbacks this season…
“They have a tough front seven. They push offensive linemen back. They’re just physical.”
On if playing against Florida’s defense will be a different challenge than the regular season games…
“No, it’s not different at all. Games like these, we’re going to try to put an ‘S’ on our chests and a cape on our back. You just take what they give you.”
Mario Benavides, Center, University of Louisville
On how Teddy Bridgewater became a leader for the team…
“Definitely last year, you could tell he had raw talent. He was a play-maker. There wasn’t as much vocal things going on. Every once in a while he would speak up and say something, but you could tell that he was, for someone his age, he was obviously beyond his years. At the same time, he still was a freshman, a true freshman, and he was out there just trying to make plays. But this offseason, we all became closer as a team, not just him but just everybody overall.”
On the perception that Florida is more talented…
“I think as far as talent goes, there’s always going to be discrepancy. I think in college football in general, it’s not high school. Every team has talent. I think what separates most programs is tradition, attitude, things like that. Things that maybe people overlook that maybe as a player you can appreciate those factors a little more. Obviously coaches; I think we have the best coaching staff in America. So as a player, you always have confidence in them. I think what it really comes down to is executing because our coaches put us in the right position. People may have the perception that Florida has more talent. That may be. You go by rivals, stars, ratings, whatever you want to say. But the bottom line is that anyone can win on any given Friday, Saturday, or in our case, Wednesday. I think that proves to you how fragile college football is.”
On the attention Teddy Bridgewater receives at the quarterback position…
“I’ve never been that type of guy anyway. Personally, I’m a lineman, I’m used to that. But with Teddy, we also know he doesn’t like the attention. It’s not like he’s thriving off of it. Even if he was, to each his own. If that’s what gets him going for the game, that’s what gets him going. All we care about is that he prepares, which he does very well. He cares about us, he cares about winning. As long as those things are in place, he can do whatever he wants. It just so happens that he’s a very humble person.
Alex Krupper, Offensive Lineman, University of Louisville
On this being a statement game…
“Going forward, this is the biggest game Louisville can potentially play for years. This is a big-time SEC opponent and that’s the best conference in the nation, everyone knows that. So to be able to play one of those teams is a huge opportunity.”
On the biggest difference in the program since Charlie Strong got there…
“The work ethic and everything that goes into it: all of the time and preparation that the coaches do and how they prepare us is totally different. They brought in players that can play. There are a lot of guys that you’ve probably heard about and it’s just exciting to go out and play with them and going forward who knows what they can be.”
On whether this is beginning of Louisville becoming one of those next-level programs…
“The beginning was a long time ago. We were on a big stage in 2006 when we were building the program and it took a little dive but then 2010 when Coach Strong came in and that year we won a bowl game and started rolling the ball in the right direction and last year we built on that and this year we took a big step.”
On maintaining this level of success under Coach Strong…
“The players and the coaches are committed. We proved that four weeks ago when he said he wanted to stay and really build this program. The dedication that he shows and the amount of respect he has for his players and coaches I think we can be on this stage a lot.”
Damian Copeland, Wide Receiver, University of Louisville
On QB Teddy Bridgewater…
“I could tell [Teddy Bridgewater] was special when he came in as a freshman. He wasn’t an ordinary freshman. He was like an upperclassman. He stayed in the film room and he stayed in his playbook. He read coverages very well. He was like an upperclassman.”
On QB Teddy Bridgewater playing injured in the win against Rutgers…
“It was very inspiring. Just to see a guy with that much heart go out and play for us. We needed that game to make it to a BCS and [Teddy] fought.”
On head coach Charlie Strong’s decision to stay at Louisville…
“The biggest thing was that we had to stay focused. We knew Coach Strong would make the best decision for his family and the best decision for the university. We just had to sit and wait. There is relief [that Coach Strong stayed]. For me, I already had one head coach who had left. It was great [to see him stay]. Coach Strong is doing big things for this program and it can only incline from here.”
On playing in the Sugar Bowl…
“We are happy to be here. We are blessed. It’s a big stage and we’re ready for the challenge. It’s a statement game. It’s a big time game for this program. And with a victory, who knows.”
On Sugar Bowl opponent Florida…
“They are a sound defense. The SEC defense is a great defense. All we can do is control what we do as an offense and everything else will take care of itself. We can’t make mistakes and we have to capitalize on their mistakes. We have to play great special teams, play great defense, and play great offense. We have got to win every phase of the game.”
Jeremy Wright, Running Back, University of Louisville
On the success Coach Strong has had recruiting players from the state of Florida…
“He has definitely had an impact. He had us host some of the players so they could connect with people they already knew and build a friendship. Having other guys on the roster [from the state of Fla.] helps so much, just being so far from home and having to get used to going new places by yourself, it really makes a big difference. Just to have that other person there to help you get used to college is a big deal.”
On other jobs being open (Tennessee, Arkansas.), how Coach Strong broke the news that he was staying, and the mentality of the players…
“We were just really focused on practice and we didn’t really worry about it because we knew we had a game to play. At the same time, he came to us in the team room where we had a team meeting and he gave us the news that he was staying, so that was a good thing.”
On getting the running game established late in the year and the test you will face [versus Florida]…
“I feel like we definitely have to take advantage of every opportunity we have and make sure we eliminate mistakes. As backs we have to make the right reads, run hard, and make the big plays.”
On the Fla. defense being similar to an NFL defense and how that might change your mindset on the game…
“It just depends on the play; anything can happen within a play. Everyone’s not going to be in on every play and you just have to take advantage of what they give you.”
On how the Fla. defense measures up to other defenses you’ve faced…
“They’re a good defense but it’s all about us coming out to prove that we can compete. That’s what it’s all about–competing on every down.”