The news yesterday of an official charge against Austin Seferian-Jenkins in relation to a March one-car accident means the junior tight end is likely out for the remainder of spring practice. UW released a statement after the charge saying he remains indefinitely suspended, and with spring wrapping up April 20, that logically seems to mean he’ll be sidelined for the rest of it.
As for what happens in the fall, it’s still anyone’s guess. There aren’t any direct precedents in recent UW history to draw from, and even if there were, UW officials say every situation is handled on a case-to-case basis, anyway. It’s likely that the legal process will have completed in time for the beginning of fall camp in August, so there may be some clarity by then to the question of whether Seferian-Jenkins will face any game suspensions.
Given the seriousness of the offense, it’s obviously more than possible Seferian-Jenkins could miss gametime in the fall. And UW fans hardly need reminding it’s season that begins with a contest that looms pretty critical, a home game against Boise State on Aug. 31 in the first contest in the renovated Husky Stadium.
A win in that game and UW could pretty quickly vault into the Top 25 (or higher into it if the Huskies are included in the pre-season poll). A loss, though, puts a really early splash of cold water on a season when UW is hoping to truly “take the next step.”
All of which means the Huskies could be counting quite a bit on some of the other tight ends on the roster to come up big in a crucial situation.
Obviously, it’d be unfair to expect any to be able to replicate the production of Seferian-Jenkins, rightfully pegged as a pre-season All-American by many pundits.
But according to coach Steve Sarkisian, the other three scholarship tight ends on the roster — juniors Michael Hartvigson and Evan Hudson and sophomore Josh Perkins — have taken good advantage this spring of the increased reps they have gotten in the absence of Seferian-Jenkins, making him feel a little more comfortable with the depth at that spot.
“They have done a nice job of gaining confidence,’’ Sarkisian said. “They are catching the ball better than they ever have. Their run blocking and passing blocking is improved. I’ve been really pleased with those guys because early on I think they were struggling a little bit. But they have gotten better as camp has gone on.’’
Hudson (pictured above last year against Oregon) said he has used the time to polish his receiving skills. Hudson, a former walk-on from Bothell High now on scholarship, has previously been something of a blocking specialist. But he said he thinks that rep is beginning to change.
“I think mostly my contribution to the pass game is coming along a lot better this year than it has,” the 6-5, 262-pound Hudson said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’ve always been a pretty good blocker and that’s what I’ve always been used as. But now I am getting more into the routes and stuff, and that’s what I’m working on mostly. … I think it’ been a lot better this spring since I am constantly getting the reps Austin might have gotten at times. So I’m getting those reps so I can work on certain things that will make me better in the passing game.”
Hudson has been sharing time on the No. 1 unit with Hartvigson, who was a pretty big-time recruit in 2010, rated by Scout.com as the No. 20 tight end in the country out of Bothell High, to list one ranking.
He’s yet to really fulfill the expectations of coaches, or himself, at UW, however, with 14 catches for 85 yards the last two seasons — though the emergence of Seferian-Jenkins would obviously limit the opportunities for just about any other tight end.
Sarkisian, though, said he sees flashes of the 6-6, 255-pound Hartvigson maybe being on the verge of a breakout season.
“Early on he showed a pretty significant amount of inconsistency and knowing his assignments and doing things right,” Sarkisian said Tuesday. “But his confidence level has only gotten better,” Sarkisian said Tuesday. “His play has improved. He’s catching the ball better. He’s running more precise routes. He’s blocking with conviction. … Mike’s a very bright guy and at times he can overanalyze things rather than just focusing on his job and doing his job to the best of his ability, and I think he is realizing that more and doing a better job of it.”
Perkins, listed at just 6-3, 216, doesn’t fit the prototypical tight end mold, physically, and the Huskies had plans heading into the spring to use him more as a receiver this spring after he spent last year at a hybrid H-back type role. After the suspension of Seferian-Jenkins, Perkins was moved back to more of a tight end role, though it’s fair to see he’s used more in receiving than blocking roles.
Also added to the mix in the fall will be Class of 2013 signee David Ajamu, though at this point it’s hard to project a significant role for a true freshman for the 2013 season.
And for now, Sarkisian says he feels confident that whoever will be called on for the Boise State game will be able to do the job.
“That’s what you like to see is position groups, and individuals within position groups, improve as you to through spring practice and into fall camp,” he said.