But the 6-foot-5, 227-pound Hubbell ended up delivering in a big-time way for the Sugar Bowl champion Cardinals.
Hubbell, who missed the Sugar Bowl with an injury, started four of 12 games he played, caught 14 passes for 239 yards and was an integral part of the Louisville offense during the 11-2 campaign.
"Ryan made a lot of big plays for us last season," Moore said. "He's going to have his role and he's going to make big plays for us again."
Hubbell scored touchdowns against Temple and Missouri State last season and had a career-high three catches in the BCS Bowl-clinching win over Rutgers in the regular-season finale before getting injured.
"He's been underneath the radar scene nationally," U of L offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "But he's been our most consistent player at that position and he's kind of been the unsung guy."
Hubbell came to Louisville after two years at Iowa Western. He led the U of L tight ends in catches and receiving yards last season. His first reception was in the second game of the season – a two-yard TD against Missouri State.
"For my first year, overall it was a good year here," Hubbell said. "I am one of the smaller tight ends but it's all about fundamentals. I tried to work hard."
Hubbell and Moore said after two years of spring ball and an entire fall season that Hubbell has become the leader of the tight end group because of experience.
"I have been here and now I understand the offense," Hubbell said. "I am a lot more comfortable. Having a year, playing in a big-time program like this and the second year is always going to be more comfortable.
"I'm just more relaxed and know the offense better."
U of L has plenty of depth at tight end this season with Florida transfer Gerald Christian "neck and neck" with Hubbell for the starting spot, according to Moore. But the coach said Hubbell "will play a key role for us."
"He's the veteran and the quiet leader," Moore said. "He has the system pretty in tact and is now trying to learn all of the other positions and what they do, to make him an even better player."
Hubbell was a two-star JUCO prospect and had 16 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He was named All-Midwest Conference. As a freshman, he caught 12 passes for 200 yards and two TDs in six games.
Hubbell prepped at Marion, Iowa, High School and was a full-qualifier, but opted to go the JUCO route because he was told he wasn't big enough to play tight end and didn't get a ton of attention in the recruiting.
"I am the smallest, but I am the fastest," Hubbell said with a smile.
And now he's the veteran for the Cardinals.
"There's a lot of talent at the tight end position," Hubbell said. "It's going to make our position much better and I'm excited to see what we can all do."