When asked about Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, you could tell the freshman quarterback inspires the Pitt head coach. Graham puts a heavy emphasis on the quarterback position, but also understands what it takes to trust a freshman understanding his assignments on the field, let alone trusting one to start at quarterback.
"I think it's difficult (to start as a freshman)," Graham said Monday. "Obviously, he's a special athlete and a special player."
Bridgewater has been a big part in why Louisville—initially predicted to finish seventh in the preseason media poll—is now in sole possession of second-place in the conference.
"Really, they were running two quarterbacks earlier in the year; tremendously athletic," Graham said. "They've just locked down with him, really developing and getting better every week."
Bridgewater's numbers certainly prove that. He played sparingly in Louisville's first two games, as the Cardinals beat Murray State 21-9 in the season-opener, followed by a loss to Florida International in Week Two. Against Kentucky, Bridgewater threw for a pair of touchdowns, helping his team to their first win over their in-state rival in five years.
Though Louisville struggled to get back in the groove with ensuing losses to Marshall (17-13) and North Carolina (14-7) before opening Big East play with a 25-16 loss to Cincinnati, Bridgewater has found a groove in his team's three-game winning streak. During the last three games, Bridgewater has thrown for four scores with just two interceptions.
"I think he was 21-of-27 last week, throwing a lot of short, control type of passes," Graham added. "He's getting a grasp of the system and what they're asking of him. I think they're doing a good job of what they're asking him to do.
"This last week, they were able to move the football and score points. I think it had a lot to do with how they executed. He's got some great people around him, a good run game, an effective group of tight ends. He's a very dual-threat type of athletic quarterback that can throw the ball."
Graham also recognizes Bridgewater's confidence. The freshman quarterback earned praise from Graham, as a result of his post-game comments in the win over West Virginia Saturday.
"People always say we're a young team; we don't have this, we don't have that," Bridgewater said after the win over West Virginia. "We just have coaches. Once you trust your coaches, it doesn't matter. Once you trust your teammates, you know that he is going to do his job, and you just do your job."
Of anything—outside of the three wins put together by the Cardinals—Graham understands what those sentiments mean as a first-year head coach, and as someone who has come into three different environments (Rice, Tulsa and now Pitt) to get players to buy into your system. Therefore, he obviously appreciates the job that Bridgewater is doing at Louisville right now.
"Very good poise, I love his comments," Graham said. "I think that's something that tells you a lot. That's what you have to do. I think Charlie Strong is as good as there is when it comes to things he's emphasizing with his guys. It's those type of values that they're playing (with). He's a freshman quarterback, and our defense knows what we have to do to be successful."