Butler and Harrington were fast learners

Two surprise players for the University of Louisville football team last week in the Allstate Sugar Bowl were players converted to tight ends. B.J. Butler and Jalen Harrington made huge plays for the Cardinals in the 33-23 win over Florida. Check out how they made their way onto the field on offense.

As one of the veteran members of the University of Louisville's offensive line, senior Alex Kupper knew every position on the offense.

So, when B.J. Butler and Jalen Harrington were moved into the tight end position because of injuries Kupper was one of their teammates who tried to help them out.

"When they were next to me, I'd try to help them out as much as possible," Kupper said. "I know how hard it is and they just moved over and hadn't done it before, so I wanted to help them as much as possible.

"But early on in bowl preparation when they ask me what route they were running, I had to think about that. I just said over or out, I didn't know."

Butler and Harrington (photo, right) had a lot to learn in a short period of time. Tight end Ryan Hubbell was sidelined with a knee injury and starter Nate Nord played but had been banged up much of the season.

But Butler and Harrington - the two players tight end coach Sherrone Moore described as "just so athletic," - not only learned the position but were key players in U of L's 33-23 win over Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

"They were huge," senior center Mario Benavides said. "To be asked to do that, it was just unbelievable for those guys."

Butler and Harrington were moved over to offense for the first time just before the Cincinnati game and played sparingly, mostly used for blocking by the Cardinals.

But without Hubbell for the bowl game, the role in the Cardinals' game-plan expanded drastically for Butler and Harrington.

"They're physical kids and love playing hard," Kupper said.

A native of Kissimmee, Fla., Butler played tight end in high school so he was used to the position. But he had only played defensive end at U of L, recording 12 tackles, including one tackle for a loss and one sack this season.

But against the Gators, Butler had several key blocks being used as a tight end and also out of the backfield lined up as a fullback. He also caught two passes for 43 yards, including a 23-yarder to the 1-yard-line setting up the second score.

"Over the five weeks we had practice, I had dreams that this would be my one breakout game for next year," Butler said. "I just wanted to come out and do that and help this team accomplish our dreams."

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Butler and Harrington had a lot thrown at them during bowl prep but the 6-foot-2, 275-pound Butler said he felt comfortable heading into the game.

"It was pretty hard but my coaches had faith in me that I could do it," Butler said. "I had five weeks and had to learn everything. I learned it in three weeks and then used the other two weeks to refine it. I am a block first type of guy. It doesn't matter it I get the ball or not. I just wanted to help my team win."

A former Fern Creek High School star on both sides of the ball, Harrington had mainly been a special teams player at U of L. He had seven tackles this season on special teams, including two in the bowl game.

Harrington also had a big 16-yard catch in the first quarter and several key blocks from the tight end position. He just missed a touchdown in the second quarter when Teddy Bridgewater overthrew him.

"It's just unreal" Harrington said. "My role when one of tight ends went down, the y asked me to come to offense and make plays, block, do whatever I could to help the team win and that was fine with me."

But did Harrington ever dream that he and Butler would be perhaps the biggest surprise stars of the Sugar Bowl.

"I never dreamed it," Harrington said. "Well, I might have dreamed about it (Tuesday night) but I never thought about it before that. Never."

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