DeVante Parker 2014 ACC Media Kickoff

Many questions will come about the void left by Teddy Bridgewater for Will Gardner to fulfill. Of course, they are valid. Bridgewater is a special player, one that doesn’t come through Louisville – or any program, for that matter – every day.

However, to those that quiver about Will Gardner, there are two points here for you to chew on: Bobby Petrino nearly made Hunter Cantwell an NFL Caliber QB. He’s done more with less talent than Will Gardner and preformed unbelievably. Secondly, he may have never been given this much receiving talent in his coaching career. That’s a scary thing for not just the American Athletic Conference but the College Football world.

Devante Parker, Gerald Christian, and Eli Rogers may quickly turn into one of the most dangerous trios of College Football. I’d be remised if I didn’t note that these three hardly crack just how deep the Louisville Receiving Unit is. A Michealee Harris who is finally beginning the 2014 season healthy along with former four star recruit Matt Milton who has had a year of learning under his belt help extend that depth.

It doesn’t take being at a Louisville Football practice too long to quickly realize what’s got Will Gardner so excited.

“It takes the pressure of the QB when you got great receivers and you just gotta look up and get the ball to them,” Will Gardner noted. “When you got Matt [Milton] whose 6’5 and Devante Parker whose 6’3. There both great athletes. It’s hard to choose which guy you wanna throw it to when they’re both one-on-one.”

He should be.

Devante Parker is primed to put up insane numbers in 2014. The Louisville bred Athletic Freak has gotten faster in the offseason, too. Each time he goes up for pass, even in practice, it continues to make you wonder how he was a three star recruit coming out of High School.

In year two, it might be time for James Quick to show what all the hoopla was about. A former five star recruit, Quick could have got a scholarship from pretty much anywhere in College Football. His 4.4 speed and route running have continued to improve. Now, if he can grasp an advanced playbook, he could be lethal.

Gerald Christian is large. Gerald Christian is very large. It’s scary to imagine what he’d looked tumbling towards you. His arms are currently bigger than my head. You won’t have an easy time blocking him and Bobby Petrino loves his Tight Ends. Ask Gary Barnidge.

Eli Rogers is the perfect safety blanket type of guy. Think Damian Copeland. Though he may be a bit faster. He’ll continue to be the forgotten glue that ties this unit together. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to playing without Teddy Bridgewater for pretty much the first time since middle school. Though if he wants to have the NFL call his name, he’ll need a big year. He’ll be motivated.

Matt Milton may be raw but he’s also 6’5. He’s a big target and athletic enough to make big plays. A former Cardinal in Mario Urrutia benefited greatly from that skillset in the Petrino system. If Milton can improve his route running, he can do the same.

Louisville returns over 80% of the passing yards that Teddy Bridgewater threw for last season as Louisville. That was under a Charlie Strong offense that wanted to set on the ball. We’re miles a part of from that now.

“I gotta trust the coaching,” Gardner explained. “I got guys around me who are awesome and guys who help me out a lot. When it gets tough, I can lean on them.”

It’s easy to over analyze Will Gardner. It’s easy to look at every twist or turn of his body and compare it to Teddy Bridgewater. The good ones and the bad ones. Yes, he’ll need to be better. He threw three interceptions in the opening day of fall camp, one on a woefully underthrown ball

But….

When you couple an improving and impressively deep Louisville Receiving Core with the play-making genius of Bobby Petrino things change. When you actually watch that in action things change even more. At least in my mind.

Will Gardner doesn’t need to be Teddy Bridgewater, he just needs to be a QB – an average one. If he becomes a great one in 2014, then the conversation about Louisville Football goes from eight win one to a double-digit, ACC Championship one.

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Chris Hatfield

Residing in Louisville, KY (via Bardstown, KY). I write things about Louisville Sports. Sometimes you'll like them. Follow me @_ChrisHatfield Email me at chatfield60@gmail.com

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