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NCAA Football American Athletic ConferenceLouisville Cardinals

Ryan Hubbell X-Factor for Passing Game of Louisville Cardinals in 2013

Ryan Hubbell

Jim O’Connor – USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater has been getting a lot of attention this offseason as the quarterback of the Louisville Cardinals and deservedly so. He has sparked an early Heisman Trophy campaign (taken up almost exclusively on his behalf by others) and has Louisville poised to make a serious run at a spot in the BCS National Championship game next January. But for Bridgewater to get them there, he’ll need weapons in the passing game. Enter tight end Ryan Hubbell to answer the call.

Last season, Hubbell was an afterthought in the passing game, catching just 14 passes 12 games. The tight end took his opportunities and made the most of them, however, gaining 239 yards (for a 17.07 yards per catch average) and a pair of touchdowns. For the Louisville passing game to get to that next level and take the Cardinals to the top next season, Hubbell will have to see a bigger piece of the action.

The media hasn’t been the only ones paying more attention to Bridgewater this offseason. Defensive coordinators with Louisville on their schedule have also been working long hour to find ways to disrupt Bridgewater and short-circuit the Cardinals’ offense. That could mean bringing new pressures and blitzes or it could mean taking away the open passing lanes to his wide receivers. Either way, Bridgewater must continue to evolve his game and that means more looks to the tight end.

When defense force Bridgewater to get rid of the ball quickly, Hubbell can be a safety valve who leaks past the blitzing linebackers and burns the defense for a big gain down the middle. If defenses are doubling the outside receivers and taking them away, Hubbell can be the one taking advantage of a mismatch inside and give Bridgewater a receiver to throw to down the middle. Either way, Hubbell will be the key to hurting defenses if they try and force Bridgewater out of his comfort zone.

And by adding another dimension to the passing game, the Louisville offense becomes that much more difficult to stop. Hubbell can be that added dimension to the offense that takes them over the top. Will Bridgewater find him with regularity next fall?

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