Louisville tight end Gerald Christian is poised for a breakout season under new coach Bobby Petrino.
Just look at past history.
Petrino has utilized the tight end effectively in his offense at just about all his stops. During his first go-around at Louisville, Ronnie Ghent and Gary Barnidge became NFL players. At Arkansas, D.J. Williams won the Mackey Award in 2010 and ended up in the NFL, too. Christian has always been an effective pass catcher, and his size -- 6-foot-3, 244-pounds -- presents matchup problems for defenses.
Add him into the mix with a stellar receiving group, and Louisville has an opportunity to put up some big-time numbers this season. I recently had a chance to catch up with Christian about his role in the offense. His goal? One hundred receptions. Sounds lofty, but that is how excited he is about what Petrino brings to the offense. Here is a little more of what Christian had to say.
How much more will you be used in the Louisville pass game this year?
A: Coach Petrino, he’s known for using his tight ends and he’s a great coach. I like how he takes his personnel and utilizes their strengths. He’s going to take me and put me in position to be one-on-one against a linebacker and one-on-one against a safety, where he targets me to have mismatches to exploit the defense. Last year, the offense was just learning plays, whereas Coach Petrino takes his playmakers and targets them more to make plays.
So you must be pumped for the opportunity.
A: I’m really excited. After spring ball and seeing the stuff he does and how he’s using me ... I’ve been given an opportunity to show what I can do. Now all I have to do is step up and make the plays. It will be fun for me.
This is your senior year after starting your career at Florida and then transferring to the Cardinals. What type of year can you have?
A: I was highly recruited out of high school, but I feel like my career hasn’t been what I wanted it to be. Last year, I had an opportunity to show what I could do but I still feel I could have been utilized more. This year, it’s my time to step up and show everything I can do. This year will be the year I make a name for myself.
Why did you leave Florida?
A: We had the coaching changes, and I didn’t feel stuff was working out for me. I wanted a new start. Out of high school, I was recruited by Urban Meyer, and Coach (Charlie) Strong, so when he was over here, going through the transfer process, I was comfortable with with Coach Strong and I wanted to come here. Sitting out -- it was tough. Going to the games every week and not being able to play was really hard. I wanted to be out there and help the team I’d been practicing with every day. But it motivated me and kept me focused. I worked hard every day and tried to take that year and make myself better.
So this is your fourth head coach since you started college, from Meyer to Will Muschamp to Strong to now Petrino. How have you dealt with all the changes?
A: That’s one thing when younger guys come in, I say you really can’t base your career off a coach because coaches come and go. At some point, you have to look out for you and be there for your team. It’s more you and your team than the coach. I didn’t know Coach Strong was going to leave. Sometimes, kids they get their relationships built up with the coaches, but this is a business and a coach will do what’s best for their family. I understand it. ... I feel like everything worked out for me.
Seeing Petrino walk through that door must have eased your mind a little when Strong left.
A: I was really excited, just seeing all the tight ends he’s put in the NFL, just knowing his history. Then when he got here and seeing how he utilized me, it seemed like he was happy with me, so I’m happy with him. He’s making me work harder and bust my butt.
A: I think the offense is going to be real good, honestly. I think we’re going to shock a lot of people. We have a lot of depth, we have a lot of veterans. The only thing that’s different is the quarterback position but we have a young guy, Will Gardner, who played under Teddy and he’s picking it up fast. Our offensive line came back, our running backs, we have veteran receivers, and we’re all helping him through his process, too. It’s not like he’s a new quarterback with a young group of receivers. Everybody around him is a veteran so we’ve taken him under our wing. He’ll be ready.