Bedford is bold and brash, loud and outspoken. Compared to Shawn Watson, who speaks with such moderation, you have to wonder if he’s really the football coach, or a simply some soft spoken stand in?
The mentors who direct U of L’s pigskinners on each side of the ball met the media yesterday.
Bedford went first, followed by Watson. It was the biggest billing snafu since Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees.
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It was no coincidence that, as he left the rostrum, Vance Bedford praised the jalapeno-laden pork tacos, served up for lunch to the assembled at Louisville’s football media day. The Director of Defense is hot, hot, hot.
He does not mince words.
On this season’s schedule: “I feel sorry for our opponents. We’re going to slice and dice.”
On how the players looked so far, after two days of practice: “I don’t know. We’re still playing basketball. There’s been no contact.”
On U of L fans: “They’re the best. But we need 50,000 butts in the seats at kickoff. Don’t be outside partying.”
On Preston Brown: “Preston Brown made up his mind to take charge. If his hair’s on fire, we’re a totally different defense.”
On playing defense in general: “Where in the real world can you go out and just hit someone? It’s a beautiful thing.”
On potential: “Potential is a bad word. Some guys have potential their whole career.”
On type of coverage: “Because of the spread offenses these days, we’ll play more zone.”
On Charles Gaines, who moved to cornerback last season: “He’s got the tools. But, can he tackle?”
Speaking of which aspect of defensive football, tackling, Bedford emphasized it has been his primary focus, after last season. “We must tackle better. Football is about fundamentals. We gave up way too many big plays. We have to cup the football, keep the ball inside us.”
“We need more interceptions.”
Bedford obviously is pleased that his minions are stronger, bigger and faster than ever before during the Strong Era at U of L. “Recruiting is better. Kids are calling us.”
This year’s defensive philosophy: “We’re going to attack all the time.
“Last season we were more conservative. We had such a great offense. This year it’s turn ‘em loose.”
All of which insight and hypebole was delivered with the volume cranked to 11.
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Shawn Watson’s following stint at the mic was the antidote.
The fellow is soft spoken and measured by nature. Compared to Bedford, Watson appeared even more so.
“It’s been a championship summer.”
“Ryan Hubbell has been our most consistent tight end.”
“We’ve got five guys in the tailback room. I’m pleased how Senorise has come back. Dominique Brown became a tailback during spring practice.”
“Will Gardner is Teddy’s backup.”
“When the season starts, we’ll have about 15 different personnel packages. Then we’ll add another 2 or 3 along the way. Last year, we had 6 or 7.”
“We have a core group of seven on the offensive line. It’s a very technical position.”
“I think Michaelee Harris is going to be real good for us. He’ll play the inside slot.”
“I call James Quick, James Fast. He’s a natural, with real football intelligence.”
On U of L’s Heisman candidate, QB Teddy Bridgewater: “The big thing with Teddy is for him to control his emotions. To control his belief that he has to do something special all the time.
“We’ve worked on Teddy getting the ball out quicker. He’s shortened it up.”
Watson left the podium without commenting on the lunch menu.
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He looks like he’s fifteen years old, and has a cherubic demeanor. To the extent that it’s almost impossible to believe what an executioner he is on the field.
He is, to all outward appearances, the anti-Manziel.
When asked why he’s never seen out and about, he answered, “I’m a home body. I like to just play NCAA football (the video game). I consider it personal reps.”
“I don’t feel pressure. I trust our preparation.”
“I chose to wear number 5 because it stands for redemption in the bible. It’s my favorite number.”
“I’ve never been offered money for my autograph.”
On focus and high hopes for the season: “We have to remind ourselves what happened last year when we got complacent.”
“I’ve become a more vocal, demanding leader. We can’t have bad plays even in practice.”
He gave the Gorgui Dieng response when a questioner implied this would be his “senior” year at U of L. “I’m a junior. I’m looking at it like I have two more seasons here.”
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Because of another commitment, I had to leave early before the other players arrived for their meet and greet.
Which brought about my second memorable elevator moment at the Press Box level at Papa J’s.
The first, a story I’ve told before but shall now repeat, was the day Steve Kragthorpe was introduced as the new Cardinal coach. Cameras and the assembled media were set up at the end of the hallway, opposite the elevator, waiting the arrival of John L’s replacement.
The door opens and its Kragthorpe and a coterie of Cardinal dignitaries. Video cameras humming, still cameras clicking, some applause from the fat cat fans in the crowd, Kragthorpe walks toward us all. Then abrubtly hangs a left into the Mens Room.
I’ve always thought the moment a metaphor for the Kragthorpe Era, which was in the toilet from its genesis.
Yesterday, I was waiting for the elevator to make my exit. It took an inordinately long time. The cables seemed be groaning more than usual as it made its herky jerky ascent.
There were loud, raucous, joy-filled voices coming from somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out where?
Then the elevator creaked finally to the Press Box level. The doors opened. And out poured fifteen or so, buff, similarly-attired Cardinal football players. Laughing. Chatting.
That elevator carried, what, a ton and a half of Cardinal football.
The guys looked like football players. The time is now. The future is bright.
Pressing “Down,” I put on my shades.
– Seedy K