March 25, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- University of Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino knows how to use the tight end. In Petrino's previous offenses, the tight end was the focal point, and it should be no different this season, as the Cardinals have one of the best tight ends in the country in senior Gerald Christian.
While the head coach at Arkansas, and when he was at Louisville the first time, the tight end position flourished.
Former Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, who was the 2010 John Mackey Award winner and a first team All-SEC performer, was a fifth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers after catching 54 passes for 627 yards and four touchdowns with the Razorbacks.
At Louisville, Petrino also developed professionals at tight end. Ronnie Ghent caught 34 passes for 421 yards and four scores in 2003 had a brief NFL career, while Gary Barnidge, who is still in the league with the Cleveland Browns, caught 31 passes for 511 yards and four touchdowns in 2006.
However, Christian, a transfer from Florida, has the size and speed to be better than all of them. Last season, Christian, who wasn't really a focal point of the offense, caught 28 passes for 426 yards and four scores.
With Petrino dialing up the plays, look for Christian's numbers to hopefully double.
"I've been watching the film of his previous tight ends," Christian said after Tuesday's practice. "I've watched film of D.J. Williams and Gary Barnidge, and coach Petrino just showed me a lot of stuff on how they use the tight end."
Under Shawn Watson last season, the tight end wasn't the first option in the Louisville offense, but because former quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was so talented, he found Christian many times as the third and fourth option.
However, Petrino's offense focuses on tight end, which is fine by Christian.
"The offense is a lot different," Christian said. "We are way more involved in this offense than in Coach (Shawn) Watson's offense. We have more routes."
That is why Christian came to Louisville in the first place, to receive more playing time after seeing minimal time with the Gators. He has been a member of the Cardinals for the last two seasons, but played just one year after sitting out as a transfer.
While he enjoyed the previous staff, Christian hit the jackpot with Petrino's offense focusing heavily on the tight end position.
"With a lot of the routes, I am the first read," Christian said. "I'm the guy the quarterback is looking for. In Coach Watson's offense, I wouldn't say I wasn't involved much, but the offensive schemes are a lot different. In the other offense, I wasn't the first read on most of the routes. I'm the first read a lot of the time in this offense."
Heading into his senior season, Christian knows he has a lot to work on to get to the next level. Through the first five spring practices, Christian is improving each day.
"I'm working at every aspect of my game," Christian said. "I feel like I need to improve on my passing routes and being more physical.
"I'm using my body more in blocking. I don't feel like I mastered anything, so I'm just trying to get better at everything."
With Petrino directing the offense, Christian will will put up better numbers, just because his number will get called.