Of the many noticeable changes that onlookers will notice about the University of Louisville offense this fall, will be how much more the tight ends will participate in the passing game. It's a staple in a Bobby Petrino offense.
Utilizing a two tight end set frequently and in an effort to keep players fresh throughout a game, the Cardinals coaching staff could use all four scholarship tight ends on the roster this fall.
Led by senior Gerald Christian, who transferred to U of L from Florida in 2012 and sophomore Keith Towbridge, a pair of true freshmen - Micky Crum and Charles Standberry - will also likely fill important roles throughout the season.
“You always need three, sometimes four, so I think one of them will definitely have to help us this year,” Petrino said during the program's media day.
Christian caught 28 passes for 426 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. With an increased emphasis on tight ends in the Cardinals new offense, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound target is certain to see his totals from a year ago increase.
At 6-foot-5, 265-pounds, Towbridge provides a more physical presence at the line and in the passing lanes. He arrived at fall camp with a little more bulk and with improved down field speed.
“The tight end can be used in a lot of ways,” explained the sophomore from Toledo, Oh. “Coach Petrino could have us split out wide or on the ball, in the backfield blocking, so there's a lot of different ways that he can use us.”
The newcomers have been impressive throughout fall camp. A pair of former three-star prospects, Micky Crum (6'4, 250) and Charles Standberry (6'3, 216) are both making a case for playing time in their first year as Cardinals.
“They've been good,” Towbridge said of the freshman. “They ask a lot of questions in the (position meeting) room. “Charles is a lot like Gerald and similar in his speed and using his hands. He's getting a lot stronger. Micky is similar to me, a big body type of guy. They're both doing good during camp, so I'm very proud of them.”
Keith Towbridge, sophomore
Following a freshman season seeing limited time as a backup and on special teams, Towbridge is poised to have an outstanding sophomore effort.
With an increased role in the Cardinals new offense, Towbridge, who was rated among the top 50 tight ends in the nation as a high school senior, spent spring and the off season preparing to become an impact player in 2014.
His size and continued improvement in passing game will create challenges for opposing defenses.
“He got stronger and he's actually running better and faster,” Petrino said.
Micky Crum, freshman
It's challenging to find a sleeper among a tight end group only that is only four deep and each could likely play a roll. While fellow freshman Charles Standberry is very capable of filling the sleeper billing, I selected Crum because of his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame and inexperience as a pass-catching tight end.
Primarily a blocking tight end and defensive tackle at Hamilton Township High School in Columbus, Oh., Crum has displayed very good hands and route running during fall camp.
“It's different because I'm not used to getting the ball that much,” he said. “It's something to get used to, so I keep studying the offense and working on perfection.”
**Gerald Christian has 7 receptions for around 50 yards in Saturday's scrimmage.
**Christian is on the preseason John Mackey Award list, which is given to the nation’s best tight end.
**Anticipate seeing many of the tight ends on special teams coverage.
**Player features on Gerald Christian and Keith Towbridge will be posted later today, as will a video preview from Cardinal Authority.