Austin Seferian-Jenkins, just a sophomore, could set Washington season and career marks for most receptions for a tight end this year.
Assuming he stays healthy and on his current path of production, Austin Seferian-Jenkins will soon hold every significant receiving record for a tight end in University of Washington history.
The sophomore from Gig Harbor has 37 receptions this year, 11 off the season record of 48 by Jerramy Stevens in 2000. And he has 78 for his career, already fourth on the list and just 17 behind leader Mark Bruener.
With four catches in the 7:15 p.m. game Saturday against Oregon State, Seferian-Jenkins would pass Rod Jones, who had 81 from 1984-86.
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Jones says the stats would only make official what he says is already evident. Jones is an academic adviser for the UW athletic department, and in that role talks daily with Seferian-Jenkins.
Recently, he said he told Seferian-Jenkins, “You will be the best Husky tight end to ever come out of here.”
Jones laughs and says, “That’s hard for me to say. But he’s earned that. I never thought that of Jerramy or anyone else.”
Seferian-Jenkins says he doesn’t care much about numbers or accolades, and says of Jones — whom he calls “a father figure” — that he’s happy just to be considered in the same class as a player.
But Wednesday, when asked about his legacy, he acknowledged that being the latest in what has been a long tradition of good tight ends was something that enticed him to sign with Washington out of Gig Harbor High in 2011.
“When I was looking into it, I wanted to definitely be one of those tight ends that at the end of my career, whenever that is, to be up there and be the best there ever was here,” he said. “And that’s my goal since I got here. I don’t pay attention to stats or anything like that. I just pay attention to how I play and the intensity that I play with.”
The stats, though, are hard to ignore, especially on a UW team searching desperately for offense.
Seferian-Jenkins’ 37 catches are second on the team to the 41 of Kasen Williams. His 447 yards, however, are first, as is his 12.1 yards per catch. Symbolic of UW’s difficulties creating big plays in the passing game, his 40-yard reception against Portland State remains the team’s longest of the season. He has caught more passes than any tight end in the nation. Next is Arizona State’s Chris Coyle with 35.
Seferian-Jenkins had his best game of the season Saturday at Arizona, catching eight passes for a career-high 110 yards in a dreary 52-17 defeat.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said the team made it a priority to get the ball to Seferian-Jenkins, who is 6 feet 6 and weighs 266 pounds. Quarterback Keith Price, though, said there wasn’t a lot of magic to it. “It’s kind of hard to cover a guy like that,” Price said. “A lot of times he probably wasn’t even open — it was contested catches. But he’s just bigger and stronger (than defenders).”
He’s also long silenced any of those who wondered about his ability to play tight end.
He played primarily receiver at Gig Harbor, though his size had most projecting him as a tight end in college. A few, though, wondered, including the coaches at Texas, the school Seferian-Jenkins said he would most likely have attended had he not signed with UW.
“They said I could play defensive end, offensive tackle or tight end and they were going to not tell me where I would play but that we’ll see how your body grows,” he said. “I just didn’t buy that, and I came here.”
He admits the transition to full-time tight end has had its challenges. “I’d never been down in a three-point stance blocking,” he said. “Now I am starting to love blocking but at first I was like, ‘I don’t know if I really like it, blocking and all that.’ But I love it now, love helping the team however I can.”
It’s that team-first attitude that Jones says helps make Seferian-Jenkins “the total package.”
Jones says Seferian-Jenkins has been as serious about academics as sports. Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t picked a major yet, but says he has an interest in international studies or international business, and might someday like to get into politics.
“If I have any issues, he is at my door,” Jones said. “If something is up and I have to question him about it, he’s not texting me back, he’s coming to discuss the issue face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and that’s why I love him so much.”
Jones said he worried last winter when Seferian-Jenkins decided to walk on to the basketball team that it might cause time-management issues. But Seferian-Jenkins met that challenge, becoming a key contributor as a depth player inside. He has not decided if he will play basketball this season, saying only he will make that call after the football season.
Seferian-Jenkins also will likely have another decision to make after the 2013 season, when he will be eligible to declare for the NFL draft. Analysts already say he’ll likely be a high pick.
For now, Seferian-Jenkins says he’s simply trying to get better each day “to reach that dominant level of player. I think I have made gains since my freshman year and since the beginning of this year. But I still have a lot of room to grow.”
• Sarkisian confirmed Wednesday that receiver James Johnson will redshirt after having suffered a wrist injury during training camp. Johnson will return in 2013 as a fifth-year senior.
• A column by Oregonian columnist John Canzano this week called the Huskies the “softest, least resilient” team in the Pac-12. Asked for a reaction, Sarkisian said he’s “been called a lot of things in my day but never been called soft or not tough or not resilient. So we’ve got to go play the game.” Asked if it will serve as motivation, he said again, “We’ve got to go play the game.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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