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QB Will Gardner at the helm of the ship
By Sam Draut
Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee listed off his development process for a quarterback to take over the vaunted Bobby Petrino offense as if he were an army drill sergeant preparing men for duty.
“We have a way to coach the quarterback in this system, and what you’ve got to do is you have to put pressure on the quarterback to perform in practice. They have to feel pressure; that way when we get out there, they understand what it’s like under pressure,” McGee said.
“They have to be pushed, they have to be coached hard because they are the ones making the decisions all game long, not only for our team but for our whole program, so they have to understand what pressure feels like on a daily basis.”
Beyond the pressure from the current coaching staff, starting quarterback Will Gardner is following up one of the greatest quarterback’s in program history.
Teddy Bridgewater’s legacy includes a Sugar Bowl victory, countless gut wrenching performances and an 11-2 sophomore season followed up with 12-1 record last season.
Gardner received his first taste of action last year, appearing in seven games, completing 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
The red-shirt sophomore had an impressive spring, capped off by completing 32-37 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game.
Petrino and McGee were impressed by Gardner’s showing in the weight room and other measured performances during the spring.
“He’s a very hard worker. He’s got a great attitude and he’s a natural leader,” Petrino said.
“Will is a kid that has proven to us that he is going to work, that he really enjoys being a quarterback, he understands what it takes to be a quarterback, which means the extra time that you’re going to have to put in to understand what is going on,” McGee said. “He is a hard worker; the kids are really following him because of how hard he works. And that is a part of playing that position.”
Gardner’s transition to the starting quarterback will be smoother with the return of three senior offensive linemen who have three years of experience under their belts. John Miller, Jake Smith and Jamon Brown make up an offensive line that has a combined 121 career starts, which ranks seventh nationally.
Additionally, Gardner will be throwing to one of the finest receiving corps in college football.
Despite DeVante Parker missing the first six to eight weeks of the year with a broken bone in his foot, veteran receivers like Eli Rogers, Kai De La Cruz and Michaelee Harris added with sophomore speedster James Quick and tight-end Gerald Christian make up a strong group.
“Will is a great guy and he comes out and works every day, so that’s all it takes is a little bit of work and we’ll get the chemistry down,” Rogers said. “He has been doing a great job at taking coaching and doing the little things that its takes to be a quarterback.”
Gardner takes over the reins of the offense as Louisville heads into its first year of the ACC and begins to write a new chapter in its programs history.
“The thing with him is we don’t have time for him to be a young quarterback because we have a lot at stake right now,” McGee stressed. “We’ve got the accelerator down trying to get him ready to go.”