Just after junior Jamari Staples returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for the first four games of the season, University of Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee made a prediction.
McGee said Staples would "be huge for us."
The transfer from UAB, who played his freshman season for McGee with the Blazers, has been a difference-maker in the four games he's player for the Cardinals since his return. Staples has 20 catches on the season and on Friday night had his break-out performance for the Cardinals with 10 catches for 133 yards.
"He’s a guy that we really trust," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said. "He’s going to do exactly what he’s supposed to do. He’s going to be on time on his routes. He’s got great hands. I thought he did a good job tonight running after the catch and making big plays for us.
"It’s great to have him back full-speed and healthy."
Staples' 10 catches were a career high and the most for a U of L receiver since Eli Rogers had 10 against Central Florida in 2013. Staples had a 14-yard TD catch in the second quarter and later added a 22-yard TD catch.
"It felt good for me to have a good game," Staples said. "A play needed to be made and they called my number, so I tried to make a play for my team. It was just me trying to make plays."
Staples, who picked U of L over Auburn, enrolled back in January and participated in spring ball with the Cardinals.
A native of Lineville, Ala., Staples had nearly 500 yards as a true freshman in McGee’s system at UAB. He had just over 100 last season in a year where he was hampered by injuries. He led the Blazers as a freshman in catches.
McGee and Petrino said in the preseason that Staples was a guy the Cardinals could use.
"He knows the system, he's a veteran and he's a big, strong guy who can make plays," McGee said.
But on the Wednedsay before the season-opener against Auburn, Staples was injured on a play he called "something that doesn't happen often." He was working on the punt block team and injured his knee.
"It was hard for me, at first I thought it was worse than it was," Staples said. "But I just wanted to get back to make some plays for my team."
On Friday, Staples made a lot of them. He had both of the Cardinals' touchdowns and now in four games has 20 catches for 307 yards and two TDs. He's second to James Quick, who has 24 catches for 365 yards on the season.
"I'm just more focused on going out and making plays for my team," Staples said.