2012 was a light year for the tight end. If Card fans are honest about it the Tight End position was a bit of a problem for the Cards. The unit was thin on depth from the beginning and when Nate Nord & Ryan Hubbell went out with injuries at different points in the season the coaching staff went to the defensive side of the ball and used BJ Butler and Jalen Harrington to fill the roles. The tight end position contributed just 28 catches for 377 yards and 3 TDs in 2012.
The unit has been trending down since its most recent peak in the 2010 season when Cameron Graham led the overall unit to 67 catches for 840 yards and 10 TDs. In 2011 the unit caught 37 balls for 490 yards and 3 TDs. The decline from 2010 to 2012 in the pass-catching department represents just 41.7% of the 2012 season in catches, 44% in yards, and 30% in TDs. Obviously personnel plays a huge role in this, but there is also the blocking aspect of the tight end. The Cards were 25th in sacks allowed in 2010 and slipped to 112th in 2011 and improved to just 90th in 2012, while positing a similar decline in rushing offense from 33rd in 2010 to 93rd & 105th in 2011 & ’12 respectively. Part of the running game trouble was due to losing Senorise Perry, but the tight end position didn’t do it very many favors in 2012 either.
Ryan Hubbell (6-5, 227, SR) is called “Mr. Reliable” by Teddy Bridgewater because he is always where he is supposed to be. Hubbell sat out the Sugar Bowl with a shoulder injury, but is ready to go and drawing praise from his coaches. A lot of folks (including me) expected Gerald Christian to come in and win the #1 Tight End spot, but it appears that Hubbell has been able to hold on to the 1st spot. We will see if that is true once the season begins, but all indications are that Ryan will be the main tight end. Hubbell came to UofL from Junior College out of necessity as the staff has rarely targeted JUCO prospects. The Iowa Western product caught 14 passes for 239 yards and 2 TDs including a thrilling 72-yarder from Bridgewater against Temple.
should technically go in the ‘Who’s New?’ category but he played enough Tight End in 2012 to put him here. When I saw Harrington play Safety at Fern Creek High School a few years ago I liked what I saw, but I have to be honest in saying that I didn’t see him at Tight End. Harrington was outstanding all season on special teams, particularly against Southern Miss. Jalen moved from linebacker to tight end during the season and I really like his physical blocking that he can bring to the position. I loved the 16-yard reception in the Sugar Bowl. Harrington is listed at Linebacker again on the most recent roster release, but I’m going to stubbornly leave him here on offense until I see him take a defensive rep.
BJ Butler (6-2, 268, SR) moved from D-Line to Offense late in 2012 when injuries required someone step up. In the Sugar Bowl Butler went from playing Tight End, to really being effective at fullback (where he is currently listed). Butler has been working out and lining up with the Tight Ends so I am putting him here. The Cards have used their tight ends in the H-Back role, so fullbacks and tight ends can slightly be interchangeable in certain cases. I loved the way he blocked, he exhibited soft hands, and he sparked the Cards in New Orleans. I’m super excited to see BJ athleticism at this position and in the backfield. His frame is perfect for blocking and he certainly has ball skills
Nate Nord will forever leave us with the diving touchdown reception in the 2011 Belk Bowl & a nice kick out block to spring Bilal Powell’s incredible run against Cincinnati. I always thought Nord was capable of more, but he struggled with injuries his entire career and battled through them. Louisville needed whatever he could give them in 2012, and Nord stuck with it.
Chris White was M.I.A. for much of 2012. I really thought White would build on a solid late 2011 push, but White was very limited in 2012 and is not listed on the updated roster.
Jalen Harrington left the Cardinals during 2013 Fall Camp per UofL Official.
Keith Towbridge (6-5, 263, FR) has excellent potential to be a high-level Tight End. One thing about Towbridge is that he is NEEDED, especially in the blocking department. Towbridge should be able to master that and him arriving on campus early was huge for Keith. There won’t be many spots where True Freshman come in and play right away in 2013, but Tight End is definitely one of them. Towbridge chose the Cards over Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, Purdue, and Nebraska and also plays basketball. Towbridge is not likely to be a big pass receiving target straight out of the gate, but I love his blocking potential and he does have good hands. If the Towbridge does not redshirt I expect him in jumbo sets and goal line situations. I’m really high on Towbridge’s potential with the Cards.
Hunter Bowles (6-6, 265, RS-FR) red-shirted his first year as a Cardinal from Glasgow High School. Bowles is BIG and could potentially be an Offensive Lineman depending on how his body develops. But for now he’s a tight end that moves really well for a big player and can catch the ball and is going to be known more for his physical blocking. Bowles chose the Cards over Kentucky and has obvious solid decision-making skills. Hunter is likely anxious to get back to playing the season after sitting out 2012 and his size and ability is a welcome addition. I really am excited to see where Hunter is in his development to see where he is after a year of development. Lots of potential here, Hunter has also struggled with a few injuries since his arrival. Bowles had 1 catch for 12 yards in the Spring Game.
Gerald Christian (6-3, 242, JR) I believe will be Louisville’s best tight end in 2013. I’m really high on Gerald Christian. Dangerously high. But right now he hasn’t taken over the position like I expected going into Spring Drills. At this point, I thought that Gerald Christian would be the clear cut #1 Tight End for UofL but Ryan Hubbell still holds the top spot. We will see what happens once the ball goes live. Christian hasn’t played a MAJOR role on a football team since 2009 when he left William T. Dwyer High School as the #3 Tight End in the country. I like the way he runs, I like the way he blocks I think he’s the real deal.
The question is: “Why did he leave Florida?” Well Florida had Jordan Reed. Reed entered the NFL Draft a year early and was selected in the 3rd Round by the Washington Redskins. Christian would have entered this season at Florida as a Senior and if Reed hadn’t been an early entry, would have had to compete with Reed for snaps. Leaving Florida put Christian in position to be Louisville’s best tight end and give himself the best chance to showcase his skills for the next level. Christian chose Florida over Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and WVU and is a former U.S. Army All-American. Gerald caught 1 pass for 9 yards for a TD
Zeke Pike (6-6, 251, RS FR) seems like he has turned a corner in taking football and other aspects of his life seriously. Pike comes to Louisville from Auburn via Dixie Heights, and was dismissed from the same staff that dismissed running back Michael Dyer. Pike participated in Spring Drills at Auburn in 2012 as a Quarterback after enrolling early and was dismissed over the summer following a public intoxication charge. Zeke needed to sit out the 2012 season due to his transfer, but was removed from the UofL roster due to a suspension and was been allowed to return for the Spring Semester. Some people grow up at different rates than others, and from the outside looking in it appears that Pike is ready to be accountable while getting a degree and playing high-level football. We’ve all been young and in college, and some of us have even had to face consequences. Let’s hope that Pike is finished learning every lesson the hard way.
Charlie Strong has demonstrated a short leash on players who are major impact players DURING the season, and Pike should expect no less for him considering he has yet to play a snap in college. Pike could be an outstanding QB, but he’ll be at tight end and chose Auburn originally over offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia, WVU, and Wisconsin.
It’s going to be better. I can say that without really much of a risk, because the position really couldn’t produce much less than it did in 2012. Last year this position really suffered because of available bodies, there really wasn’t a lot of margin for error. Tight End Coach Sherrone Moore can make an impact in his young career with a breakout performance from his tight ends in 2013. I think it will happen. I like the pieces that are here. Gerald Christian is a game-changer in my opinion and the unit is no longer thin. If Hubbell, Butler, and Bowles get the job done Towbridge might be able to keep his red-shirt on….but I doubt it. This group has gone from being thin to having a respectable amount of depth, but I don’t think the rotations will be settled at any point during the season with the results the program has seen the last two seasons. This is an exciting group on potential and I hope that I’m writing in 2014 about how excited I am about the returning Louisville Tight Ends, and I bet I will be.
2013: Ryan Hubbell, Gerald Christian, Hunter Bowles, Keith Towbridge, Zeke Pike
2014: *Gerald Christian (if not early entry), Hunter Bowles, Keith Towbridge, Zeke Pike
2015: Hunter Bowles, Keith Towbridge, Zeke Pike
2016: Hunter Bowles, Keith Towbridge, Zeke Pike
2017: *Keith Towbridge (if redshirt is used)
Running Backs 8:00 a.m. 8/21/2013