University of Louisville senior Gerald Christian is among those present on the preseason John Mackey Award watch list, an honor given out annually to the nation's top tight end, and becoming a key figure in the Bobby Petrino offense could solidify him as one of the finalists at year end.
He hauled in 28 passes for 426 yards and 4 touchdowns as a junior, but playing in a tight end friendly offense will certainly push those numbers higher in 2014.
“I feel like Petrino uses the tight end more, so I have a bigger role,” Christian said of his responsibility this fall. “I'm targeted way more in this offense. There's a lot of specific plays where I am the first read.”
His focus on preparation during spring and the off season put him into position to become a play-maker the moment that camp opened.
“Gerald is a guy that came back in great shape,” said U of L head coach Bobby Petrino. “He's as fast and as strong as I've seen him. He's very reliable with his hands and his ability to get down the middle.
“I like the way he runs his routes and he can catch the ball away from his body. He's a guy that we have to really use.”
As camp has progressed, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has been dangerous – as expected – in the passing game and has worked to further better his skill in blocking situations.
“He needs to continue to improve on his blocking and get better at that, but I think that he has made strides in that area,” Petrino continued. “It would be important for his future to really work hard on the blocking aspect, making sure that he can play both on the line, and off.”
Now in his third year at U of L, the one-time Florida Gator has become an important leader among his fellow tight ends.
“He's the man,” said freshman Micky Crum. “He's pretty much who I look up to on the team. He does everything to perfection. Every time I mess up he's on me. He's on my butt the whole time, telling me what I did wrong and what I should to do to fix whatever I did wrong.”
Christian, who caught 7 passes for around 50 yards in the Cardinals scrimmage on Saturday morning, finishing his college career with an opportunity to play a larger role has him in a position to considered among the top players at the position.
“I'm happy to be in this offense and to make plays,” he said.