Sporting News came out with a rather surprising story documenting the fractured locker room of last year’s team. At 2-4, things obviously weren’t great, but not many people knew about how the team was divided into cliques that hampered its on the field performance.
“Too many cliques,” coach Charlie Strong calls it now.
Most prominently: a hotshot 2011 freshman class made up mostly of players from Florida—many of them, including Bridgewater and two of his high school teammates, from Miami—and a bunch of returning upperclassmen who had to move heaven and earth in 2010 (Strong’s first season) just to reach a bowl game at 6-6.
A week after the UNC game, Bridgewater and the Cardinals lost at Cincinnati to fall to 2-4. A few days later—with 5-1 Rutgers up next—Strong rolled the dice during a team meeting.
“You know what? I’m tired of talking, tired of trying to convince you guys it’s time to play,” Strong told the team. “I want somebody to stand up and tell me what’s wrong with this football team.”
No one said a word. So Strong called on popular senior cornerback Anthony Conner: “AC, what’s the issue here?”
“Coach, it’s not that we don’t trust you,” Conner said. “We don’t trust our teammates. We don’t get along. We don’t ever do anything together. These guys have their own agendas.”
It’s easy now to see how last year’s squad paved a solid foundation for this year’s success after everyone got on the same page.