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Louisville TE preview: Cards have plenty of options

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Boston College v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The best thing to have in life is options, and that’s exactly what this year’s group of tight ends provides for Jawon Pass – if his playmakers out wide aren’t open, the guys lined in tight are equally viable. Following a long line of studs who have thrived under Bobby Petrino offenses such as Gerald Christian, Charles Standberry, Keith Towbridge, Cole Hikutini and Gary Barnidge, this year’s group will continue to bolster Louisville’s status as Tight End U.

Returning 2017 Stat Leaders:

Micky Crum (re-senior): 8 receptions, 99 yards, 12.4 yards per catch

Kemari Averett (sophomore): 7 receptions, 79 yards, 11.3 yards per catch, one touchdown

Jordan Davis (rs-junior): 4 receptions, 88 yards, 22.0 yards per catch, one touchdown

The Starters

Returning to the Cards for his fifth year, redshirt senior Micky Crum is a guy who, when healthy, has the potential to be a top target for the young Puma Pass. While injuries have seemingly dominated Crum’s narrative in recent years, the 6-4, 258-pound Columbus, Ohio native enters the season poised to be a significant contributor in this year’s aerial attack. He’s a physical pass-catcher who can stretch the field vertically and has been known to deliver some devastating blocks. Anyone else remember this confirmed kill in last year’s Clemson game? I bet that guy sure does.

Crum appeared in eight games last season, hauling in eight passes for 99 yards while averaging a robust 12.4 yards per catch. A lingering shoulder injury he suffered in the season opener caused him to miss time last year, including the Cards’ bowl game against Mississippi State. Now, if you’ll recall, we were all high on this guy after 2015 when injuries to then-starters Keith Towbridge and Charles Standberry thrust Crum into a starting role; that season proved to be his most productive as he’d go on to catch 14 balls for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He’s yet to find the end zone since then, but if he can stay healthy moving forward, he certainly possesses the skillset to be a reliable weapon in the offense.

According to Bobby Petrino, Crum is coming off the best spring he’s ever had with the team, so things are looking up. A couple weeks ago in the closed scrimmage held by the team, Crum reportedly scored on the lone touchdown connection from Puma Pass.

Most recently, both him and fellow tight end Kemari Averett were named to the 2018 John Mackey Award preseason watch list, which annually recognizes the most outstanding collegiate tight end in the country.

Shifting gears over to Averett, who at 6-6, 267-pounds is the tallest tight end of the group and is tied for second tallest on the team, will be the other starter when the Cards run their twin TE packages. 2017 saw Averett appear in 10 games as a true freshman, a season in which he caught seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. Formerly the No. 1 ranked tight end in the state of Georgia by Rivals.com, Averett will see substantial action this year.

Related: Louisville WR preview: America’s Finest Receivers on Saturday are back

The Reserves

Somewhere in-between starter and reserve is where redshirt junior Jordan Davis falls into the rotation. Due to the fact that Coach Petrino has been known to use jumbo sets that feature as many as three tight ends, Davis will likely gain solid experience this year as well. At 6-4, 254-pounds, the Texas product is another big-bodied athlete who adds much-needed depth to an otherwise depleted TE corps. He appeared in 11 games last season, making one start and scoring a touchdown against Purdue. Redshirting in 2016 after transferring from Texas A&M, Davis is no stranger to Saturday reps, having seen action in 11 games before leaving College Station.

Related: Louisville QB preview: The Puma Pass Era Begins

The Newcomers

Fortifying the roster are Jeffery Banks, Hunter Crowe and Marshon Ford. Banks is a 6-2, 218-pound sophomore from Mississippi and while he’s not totally brand new to the team, it’s unlikely he sees much of the field with the aforementioned upperclassmen ahead of him. Crowe, a 6-1, 228-pound freshman is a hometown kid, as well as 6-2, 210-pound Marshon Ford. Crowe joins the Cards after starring at Butler High School, and Ford is a former Ballard Bruin.