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Louisville tight ends stocked with talent; Cardinals prepare for Western Kentucky in Sept. 12 opener

By Rocco Gasparro
University of Louisville

When University of Louisville tight ends coach Stu Holt arrived for the start of spring practice in 2019, he didn’t know if he would have enough bodies to finish the season.

The Cardinals entered last season without a scholarship tight end on the roster before head coach Scott Satterfield granted local product Marshon Ford a full ride. Ean Pfeifer, a former offensive tackle, was signed as a graduate transfer to play tight end, but Holt only had a few more walk-ons to fill out his meeting room.

Ford’s development was the biggest surprise, leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in receiving touchdowns by a tight end with seven, and being a big target in the passing game. Pfeifer recorded a pair of touchdowns, but was key in the improvement of the run game with his ability to block.

Louisville tight end Marshon Ford led the ACC in receiving touchdowns by a tight end with seven. (UofL photo)

“It’s been really good,” Holt said of the competition in the tight end room. “We’re certainly at a better place depth wise than we were a year ago. We’ve added a few guys to the roster, and it’s made for a really competitive camp.”

“Marshon and Ean, being the top two guys coming out of camp and then, Isaac Martin, Dwayne Martin, Dez Melton Francis Sherman, Dez Daniels, and Josh Lifson are also in the mix. There’s a lot of a lot more names this year, and it’s certainly very competitive with all those guys.”

Heading into his sophomore season, Ford has shown a big improvement in his overall game, becoming more of a complete tight end. He will be a big component in the passing game as the staff moves him around more to get open.

“Marshon is so good in space already, but he’s getting better,” Holt said. “This year he’s just more comfortable and knows the offense better from all the reps that he’s taken. He just understands leverage in the run game and he understands positioning in the run game. A lot of those sweeps that we ran last year with Tutu (Atwell), he’s a guy that is leading the way he is well.”

The return of Pfeifer was also a big lift to the Cardinals this season. He was slated to take a job with Goldman Sachs, but the opportunity to improve his overall game at tight end was intriguing. He only caught two passes, both of which were touchdowns, but he was starting to come into form as an overall tight end.

“I kept that bug in his ear for quite a while,” Holt said of Pfeifer’s possible return. “He said that he was thinking about it didn’t want to let this opportunity pass me by and we’re tickled to death to get him back. He’s really taken his game to another level. You know, last year he was just figuring it out never played tight end before kind of teaching himself in the recruitment process and then once we got him here was, kind of, you know, putting him on the ball and really taking advantage of the things.”

Isaac Martin was another one of those walk-ons who was forced into action, but earned a scholarship this year after being a critical piece of the offense. Not flashy in his game, Martin is a gritty, tough player who is that hard worker that every team needs to succeed.

“We’re always going value toughness,” Holt said of Martin “You know, Isaac from the time we got here, we knew that he was going to play physical, and he was a tough guy. He did work hard to get himself in the mix. He’s just gotten better and better and better and more confident in what we’re going to ask him to do, and like I said, he’s a physical guy and we want to have those type guys on field.”

Louisville plays host to Western Kentucky in the opener on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.

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