How Bridgewater, others can get better

Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is considered the top QB prospect for 2014. Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY Sports

When you're the most in-demand independent quarterback instructor going, it makes for a busy summer. The offseason is your season. But George Whitfield isn't complaining, even on the heels of a two-week trek that took the Californian to Georgia, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame -- and I might have accidentally omitted one or two stops.

Whitfield has most recently been in Oregon working with the Elite 11 camp, where some of his college pupils are counselors for the next crop of, as he calls them, "dragon slayers" or "surgeons."

I caught up with Whitfield to discuss three of the quarterbacks he's spent time with this offseason -- Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Michigan's Devin Gardner -- and got his take on each player's development and what he's expecting to see out of them this season.

Teddy Bridgewater

In NFL circles, Bridgewater is widely considered the top QB prospect heading into the season. Insider colleague Mel Kiper Jr., and others, has said that Bridgewater would have been the No. 1 QB taken in the 2013 draft, so he'll clearly enter the 2014 race as the favorite.

All that said, it shouldn't come as a surprise that offensive coordinator Shawn Watson essentially is asking Bridgewater to tighten everything up for his third season at Louisville. If he was previously 70 percent in a drill, Watson is now asking for 100.

"We chase perfection," Watson told me in April. "Along the way, we catch excellence."

The Cardinals, collectively, will chase perfection this fall. And it's possible, given one of college football's easiest schedules. If Louisville again lands in a BCS game and Bridgewater puts up monster numbers, a Heisman run is not out of the question on the way to being the first offensive player taken in the 2014 draft.

Whitfield's notes: "He's shown a 100 percent ownership of his system. He could teach it. He could coach it. He could be the de facto quarterbacks coach there. He and [Watson] could have a conversation as counterparts, speaking that language together. He's extremely talented.

"His challenge is, 'Can we be consistent? Can we play as favorites and play up to expectation?' Teddy and Louisville -- they're going to be the dragon. Those guys can't get lulled to sleep. That's Teddy's job, to keep everyone going and engaged.

"Also, I want to see how defensive coordinators play him. They're going to get creative, exotic against him. That's going to be fun to watch, to see how he reacts."

Tajh Boyd

Boyd dropped 15-20 pounds last offseason, something that coordinator Chad Morris told me, without embellishment, changed Clemson's entire offense. With Boyd able to run more, it allowed for additional flexibility in play calling.

Those who saw Boyd at Elite 11 noted that he was still in phenomenal shape, so there's no threat of regression as far as how he will physically enter camp or the season. Those who know him well say he is aware that this is a "contract year" of sorts, but they say he remains team-oriented and understands that Clemson has been knocking on the door of elite status.

Whitfield's notes: "He's the closest thing college football has to a complete quarterback. He's college football's Aaron Rodgers. He forces defenses to defend the width and depth of the field, in the air and on the ground. He can beat you with his feet and get to his fourth read. And he's adept at it. He's quick. I don't think he has a glaring weakness.

"He's working on consistency and refinement. Those are very boring terms -- not very sexy. It's 'Can I get us into the best situation on third-and-8?' It's not so much mechanical. He's put himself in great position by working hard, not just on his skill set but his consistency. Anyone who watched the LSU game [in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which Clemson won], there were 17, 18 defensive players on certain series. But Boyd wasn't rotating out.

"For Boyd, the questions are going to be 'Can I continuously manage chaos? Can I get us out of bad plays?' I think he's on that Andrew Luck level of mastery. He needs to continue to push and minimize the negative stuff. You can hit the gas pedal all day, but can you get us out of the pothole? That's the next chapter."

Devin Gardner

This time a year ago, Gardner was participating in Michigan's informal seven-on-seven workouts -- as a receiver. Rather than being thrust into the QB role, as he was midway through 2012, he now knows what's up. That has led to additional comfort for Gardner, who admitted this offseason that he never viewed himself as a receiver; he always thought of himself as a quarterback.

A few people were honest with me when I visited Ann Arbor: He's a team guy, they said, but it was a weight off when Gardner was no longer squarely located in Denard Robinson's shadow. He has reacted and acted accordingly in 2013. I know Tom Luginbill is one of our experts who think Gardner could be the breakout player this fall in college football.

Whitfield's notes: "This is a big year for Devin. It's his first time taking over the controls as the unquestioned driver. He's got a heck of a transition. It's sort of the same thing as what [former Texas A&M receiver-turned-quarterback -- and later first-round pick] Ryan Tannehill did. Devin contributed, was that talented, has been on the field and played in big games, but not in the central role and commander's chair.

"They're going to have some games to get him on his feet before the Big Ten schedule. He's going to sneak up on people. I don't think they're ready for how dynamic he is. He's a mid-4.4 guy. He just needs reps and consistency."