12/27: Strong, Louisville talk Florida, Sugar Bowl

No. 21 Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 3 Florida Gators and provide updates on his team.

» Strong’s opening statement: “I was here three years ago on the other sideline coaching at the University of Florida preparing for Cincinnati. The next day I left for Louisville and our goal the first season was just get to a bowl game. It was the same scenario we had this season when we had to go to Rutgers and pull off a big win. […] We know we are playing an excellent football team in the University of Florida. We are happy and excited, and it’s really great for the school and the city of Louisville and the administration. To represent them is such an honor.”

» Strong on moving Florida senior Jon Bostic from safety to linebacker: “Bostic is a really good football player and I went to visit him as many times as the administration would let me. Bostic was too big to play safety and it was just a matter of time before he could eat his way into playing linebacker. But I have to hand it to the university for giving me the opportunity to recruit such a talented player like him.”

» Strong on coaching the Gators: “My success started at Florida. I was a part of two national championship teams and worked for so many outstanding coaches. One after the next, those coaches gave me opportunities and built tremendous programs with tradition. That same tradition is what we are trying to establish at Louisville as the program continues to get better each year. Though, it was a great experience at Florida and a lot of fun.”

» Strong on staying at Louisville despite getting other job offers: “I’m just blessed to have this opportunity, but the reason for the position I am in is because of the players. It’s all about the players and how they played. I talk to them all the time about trust and commitment to the program. When I went to recruit them, I stressed the process and commitment and that they just had to stay with me. So when I had the opportunity to leave, I just couldn’t walk out on them like that. I also work for the best athletic director in the country. When you have a chance to work for an AD that gives you everything you ask for then you can’t just turn and walk away from them. The city of Louisville has also been behind me the whole way. From the day I took this job, Louisville trusted me and believed in this football program. I can get everything that needs to be accomplished here at Louisville and I am happy being here.”

» Strong on the curfew for the Cardinals: “There won’t be a curfew because I want my players to enjoy the experience. They deserve it as a team because they’ve worked so hard to get themselves here. They already know it’s all about business and we’re not trying to see how many hurricanes we can consume or anything. We can stay out at night, but in the end we know it’s a business trip for us.”

» Louisville center Mario Benavides on his team being the underdog: “We are an underdog. We’ve actually played pretty well under that role the last couple of years. Whatever it takes for any guy within himself to play his best game, I don’t care how you take it. Me, personally, I’m glad to go out there and play a football game, and I look at it as Xs and Os, effort and technique. I don’t really care who I’m lining up against. [Florida] is obviously a very good team. They deserve to be where they’re at. On film you can see that they’re very talented. I think the discrepancy between rankings, that just is what it is because we earned to be here and they earned to be here as well.”

» Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on his wrist and ankle injuries: “I feel great. I can’t put an exact percentage on it right now, but I feel great. I’ve been running really well in practice so [the ankle] won’t be much of a factor. It’s not bothering me at all.”

» Bridgewater on Strong: “He cares so much about the players. He cares about his players first as a person, then as an athlete. He wants you to be successful in life before being successful in athletics. We are very happy he is still here. There was not a doubt in my mind that he wasn’t leaving. We are proud of the decision he made. He cares so much about this team.”

» Bridgewater on the Gators’ defense: “They are very physical. They have a great front-seven. The closest team to them would be Rutgers, but we haven’t really faced a team like them.”

* All quotes courtesy of the Sugar Bowl.

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