After the 2014 spring football game, I recall thinking Gerald Christian would have huge season based on the way I knew Petrino likes to use his tight ends and how much Petrino seemed to emphasize him in the spring game. That didn't happen. Christian never seemed to get going once the season started, had snaps taken from him by freshman Charles Standberry, and the offensive line's struggles often meant less of a role in the passing game (and just fewer plays overall) for the tight ends. Similar to the situation at receiver, there are pieces to work with even if they're awfully green.
|Micky Crum||RS FR||6'4||257||-||-||-||-|
|Cole Hikutini (JC)||JR||6'5||242||40||658||4||13|
|Devante Peete (?)||FR||6'6||202||-||-||-||-|
Breaking Down the Battle
Were Towbridge not trying to rehab the same injury that DeVante Parker suffered last year, he would be the automatic starter here. He catches the ball well and is a strong, better blocker than Gerald Christian or Charles Standberry was last year. If he comes back full speed, he'll be the guy at least early on. The staff loves Cole Hikutini. Last year's #2 rated JUCO tight end arrived for spring ball but was injured halfway through. Hikutini is said to be fully healed and is closer to the Gary Barnidge/Scott Kuhn style tight end than either Towbridge or Christian. In fact on his video he's almost a big slot receiver. If he's been able to use the summer to get strong and be a competent blocker, he'll push Towbridge.
The rest remains a bit of a mystery. Micky Crum made the most of a redshirt season and has bulked up close to 260 pounds. I thought he looked like a linebacker coming out of high school. If there continues to be issues with Hikutini and Towbridge then he'll be pushed into duty.
After that, the only question is who much Griffin Uhl is used as a quasi-tight end since he's already a fullback and whether or not Devante Peete will play tight end instead of receiver. If tight end is the plan, then it's hard to see how they don't redshirt him and at least give him a chance to put on weight, get stronger, and have four years of playing time at a mostly new position (but man, if he takes to tight end, he'll be an amazing weapon at 6'6 with such great hands).
You could probably go with any of the three non-freshmen here but I'll say Hikutini for two reasons. First, again, coaches loved him early in spring and I'm not sure there's a better eye for offensive talent than the guys on the Louisville sideline right now. Second he's clearly the fastest of the group and the most natural receiver, so if the overall goal is to replace the production of Parker by committee, a fast, receiving threat working the middle and seams strikes me as the best bet to break out in the new Louisville offense in 2015.
Better or Worse Than Last Year
I'm going to go out on a limb and say better than last year, or at least more productive, because I have a suspicion that the offensive line will require less tight end help in blocking and allow for more aggressive throws. Maybe it would be more accurate to say the tight end position will be as good as 2014, but it will likely be more productive.