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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich says he will move quickly to pick his next football coach, and he hopes the new hire will stay for the long term. Jurich is keeping his options open for the “100 or 200” candidates he joked have shown interest in replacing Charlie Strong, who told the AD on Saturday night that he’s leaving for Texas. Jurich didn’t mention potential candidates Sunday but said “everybody is in play” — even Western Kentucky’s Bobby Petrino, a former Cardinals coach.
Losing Strong four days after star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said he would enter the NFL draft wasn’t what Jurich expected with Louisville joining top-ranked Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. But he believes the pending move will make for a stronger field of candidates.
“As we’re (going to) the ACC and it’s very strong, it’s going to be an added benefit for us,” said Jurich, adding that Louisville is a go-to coaching job rather than a steppingstone. “This is a program that’s really made it on the map, so we want to make sure we do everything we can to sustain that.”
Jurich was quick to credit Strong for turning Louisville into a destination during his four years at the school. He went 37-15 in his first head coaching job, including 3-1 in bowl games and a BCS bowl victory over Florida in last year’s Sugar Bowl.
Louisville’s success has lifted the school’s profile among recruits — whom coaches can begin contacting Jan. 15, with national signing day Feb. 15 — and especially coaches.
Jurich provided no timetable for replacing Strong but has a history of moving rapidly in hiring. One name that has been mentioned as a potential candidate is Duke’s David Cutcliffe, a two-time ACC Coach of the Year who led the 10-4 Blue Devils to the conference title game and a second straight bowl appearance.
Jurich also said Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would be considered if he applies. He even floated the possibility of considering the controversial Petrino, who went 41-9 at Louisville from 2003-06 but frequently entertained possibilities of going elsewhere. Petrino is coming off an 8-4 finish in his first season at WKU after his April 2012 firing by Arkansas for misleading school officials about a motorcycle accident involving his mistress.
“It’s a wide-open job; there’s no preconceived notions right now,” Jurich said. “I want to go quick. Time should be of the essence. I want to get the right person, I’ll tell you that. … I’ll consider everybody. Everybody is in play.”
As Jurich begins the process of sorting through a potentially large pool of coaching candidates, the question is which Cardinals players will stick around.
Besides Bridgewater, wide receiver Damian Copeland and safety Calvin Pryor have announced their intentions of entering the NFL draft. But deep-threat receiver DeVante Parker and leading rusher Dominique Brown have said they plan to return, as does sacks leader Lorenzo Mauldin.
Poised to replace Bridgewater is Will Gardner, who showed flashes of his potential in completing 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns as a backup. Redshirt junior offensive lineman Jake Smith wouldn’t be shocked if more players leave. That sometimes happens with coaching changes, but he said the main thing for the returning Cardinals is to unite behind Jurich’s choice to lead the program.
“At this point we have to really emphasize sticking together and moving forward,” Smith said. “It’s a players’ program. So, how the players respond and react is how well we are going to do next year.
“A lot of older guys like Dominique Brown and others are going to have to really try to bring the team together.”
LOUISVILLE (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater can throw the ball all over the field and celebrate with fans in the stands. There’s still some things the Louisville quarterback can’t do. Waving the punt team off the field is one.
Bridgewater tried just that late in the first half against Eastern Kentucky on fourth-and-2, and coach Charlie Strong made it clear the junior doesn’t have that authority no matter how highly ranked the Cardinals might be or how much a Heisman Trophy candidate his quarterback might be.
“We have enough coaches on staff,” Strong said he told Bridgewater when ordering him to the sideline.
ridgewater turned in another strong performance, throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns in the seventh-ranked Cardinals’ 44-7 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday. He completed passes to eight different Cardinals for a second straight game and threw TDs to three different players. But Bridgewater sounded frustrated by a lack of production in the run game and graded himself as only average completing 23 of 32 passes.
“Everyone may see 397 yards …, but what I see is the less than 100 yards rushing,” Bridgewater said. “I build my success around complete offense and total offense. I may have thrown for 397 yards, but there are some things I’m going to have to work on … My check game, getting better looks for the running backs. I’m going to watch the film and evaluate.”
Louisville ran the ball pretty well in the season opening win over Ohio, showing plenty of balance behind Perry, Brown and former Auburn running back Michael Dyer. The Cardinals totaled 199 yards in that game. Against FCS-level Eastern Kentucky, the Cardinals (2-0) ran the ball 28 times for 78 yards, averaging 2.8 yards per carry. Senorise Perry scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, and both he and Dominique Brown had an 8-yard run apiece. They just couldn’t get first downs when needed with Bridgewater helping pick up 15 of the 20 first downs through the air.
The Cardinals now have to try to improve before visiting in-state rival Kentucky, a game that offers Louisville its lone opportunity at a win over a Southeastern Conference team no matter how the Wildcats are struggling under first-year coach Mark Stoops.
“It should be a fun experience,” senior linebacker Preston Brown said of playing in Lexington. “My last time in this rivalry, hopefully, we will get out with a win next week.”
Bridgewater said he has no idea how Kentucky is looking right now. Still, this is a rivalry with lots of passion between schools that really can’t stand each other, and Bridgewater expects Cardinals’ fans to put plenty of red into Commonwealth Stadium.
“We’ve got a lot of bragging rights on the line,” Bridgewater said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
LOUISVILLE — He’s still trying to figure out exactly what to expect from his team, but first-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is also having to learn to deal with other obligations that go with being head coach.
“It is very different. First time going through all these things, first time at this event,” said Stoops Wednesday at the annual Governor’s Cup press conference to promote the UK-Louisville game. “Sorry I couldn’t make the (Governor’s Cup fundraiser) event last night, but I was in Bristol at the ESPN ‘Car Wash’ and that was a great experience. SEC Media Days is something that, I don’t know if you could ever get prepared for that. Just a very large event.
“Things like that, it’s managing your time, finding the time to get in there with your coaches and your players. I know (Louisville) Coach (Charlie Strong) and I were just talking a little bit, we’re both going to be ready to get in there with our coaches and with our team and watch football.”
Stoops will be back in Louisville Friday for a UK alumni luncheon that is expected to attract 800 or more fans. Kentucky will host the annual Women’s Clinic Saturday and over 500 are expected. He also had a fundraising function Saturday night.
“There’s obligations involved there with being a head coach and I understand that. With that being said, yeah, you do feel like at some point you’re really ready to get in there and get coaching your guys. We have so much to do, I’ll be anxious to get coaching that team,” Stoops said.
He says he is “getting more and more comfortable” with being the “face” of the UK program.
“You know me, you know I’d rather be in that meeting room grinding on some film,” Stoops said.
Strong said it took him time to learn that he couldn’t accommodate all the requests for his time when he took over at Louisville.
“Not only media, but everyone is trying to pull you. Whether it is alumni, Kiwanis Club or whoever. In the beginning you try to accommodate everyone and then you realize you can’t accommodate everyone and people get mad. It’s just so tough in the beginning because everyone wants a piece of you because here you are, you’re just a new face in town,” Strong, who was the defensive coordinator at Florida before coming to Louisville, said.
Stoops said he is learning the “need to say no” to certain requests.
“You want to get out so much you appreciate all the people that support you in all corners of the state and in all communities, you want to get out and you want to get back to them and just give them some exposure to yourself and your program,” Stoops said. “But there is a balance. I’ve been a defensive coordinator for a long time. Yeah, I’m getting anxious to get in that room and be in there for long periods of time and to help this team win some games.
“I think there is an adjustment there. I think there is a time when you have to say no, and I hope people understand that. Because it’s time to put your kids, put your program, put your players in the best position to be successful.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Trinity receiver James Quick, a four-star recruit, says he’ll base his college choice on “whichever coach can connect with my family more than anything because family is the most important thing to me” and that was obvious by the turnout of family members recently when he received the Paul Hornung Award as the state’s top prep player.
He’s going to pick either Louisville or Ohio State during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 5 in Texas.
He admits Louisville “is definitely ahead of Ohio State” and that he likes Louisville coach Charlie Strong because “he is all about team” more than anything.
But what if new UK coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator had been at Kentucky longer and had been able to recruit him for more than just a week weeks?
“I think they are going to do a great job as far as rebuilding their program. Bringing in a great style of offense that I would love to play in and just coming after me as a good fit for them because I like to play in an offense that actually throws the ball, all that impressed me. With their offensive coordinator and defense, they are going to come in and have some fun,” Quick said. “WhenI talked to coach Brown, he talked to me about their offense. He told me to watch their offense and the way he did things. I did and really liked what I saw.
“They were in my head slightly. Not much, but I did give them a look to see if that is where I wanted to go. But these other schools just recruited me a lot longer and lot harder.”
Why? Why would UK not recruit the state’s best player at the state’s best high school program?
“Usually when coaches come to the school you see the coaches and you do not see the Kentucky coaches much at all. I really can’t tell you why,” Quick said. “At first, it surprised me that the Kentucky coaches weren’t at school. After a while, though, you just got used to it and knew they were probably not going to come. I think that’s going to be different now.”
It is and should be. However, for UK, it comes too late to have had a chance at a big-time receiver who would have been invaluable in Brown’s offense.