Huskies try out TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins at DE for a change
The standout receiver played several downs on defense against Utah on Saturday, and coach Steve Sarkisian said it might not be the last time he'll play there.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Huskies @ Colorado,
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Washington sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins was named Monday as one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the best tight end in the country.
Will the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the best defensive end in the country, come calling next?
If Seferian-Jenkins has his way, it just might someday.
While the Mackey nomination was further proof of what has been evident for weeks — that Seferian-Jenkins is having one of the best seasons in the country by a tight end — it was his play at defensive end in Saturday's 34-15 win over Utah that was a central topic of conversation Monday during UW coach Steve Sarkisian's weekly news conference.
Seferian-Jenkins, listed at 6 feet 6, 258 pounds, lined up at defensive end for "eight or nine plays," Sarkisian said, as the Huskies looked both to fill in some holes created by a few injuries on the line and also get what the coach said was a faster defensive line on the field.
And he said to not be surprised to see Seferian-Jenkins at end again this week when UW plays at Colorado.
"I don't think it's ever just going to go away," Sarkisian said. "It's got to fit the game plan and who we're playing and what we're doing. I thought he was relatively successful at doing that in the game. Obviously he didn't just beat the tackle and sack the quarterback, but he allowed us to move (Andrew) Hudson down inside to do some things — getting more speed on the field and utilizing that."
After Saturday's game, Seferian-Jenkins made it clear he is all for being used as a defensive end.
"I want to play defense," he said. "I want to get sacks. I want to be a dominant pass rusher. I think I can do that with my body type and my work ethic. I think I just need more time to refine my skills and I can be a dominant pass rusher."
Seferian-Jenkins, who set UW's career record for receptions by a tight end against Utah (96, breaking the mark of 95 held by Mark Bruener) said he hadn't played defensive end since the ninth grade, playing cornerback and safety his last three years at Gig Harbor High.
He has practiced with defensive coaches, work that also helps with his duties on the field goal block team. But he said it got serious in the last week or so after defensive-line coach Tosh Lupoi approached him again about playing defense.
"Love it," Seferian-Jenkins said animatedly when asked what he thought of playing defense.
And he doesn't have any worries about the potential physical toll.
"It's what my body is made for," he said.
Whether using one of the team's best offensive options on defense is worth the injury risk, though, is an obvious question.
Sarkisian, however, said he doesn't consider that enough of a concern to not use Seferian-Jenkins on defense.
"Obviously, we know this is a violent sport," he said. "But guys can get injured doing stuff that there is nobody around them and we saw that early in the season, so I am not as concerned. It's not as if he's in there taking on run blocks and different things and he's not in on the goal line. He's in there on obvious passing downs where he's rushing the passer, so if we are coaching afraid to get hurt then we are afraid to lose, too."
Some of the injuries that helped create the need for Seferian-Jenkins may still be there this week.
Three Washington defensive ends — starter Talia Crichton and backups Josh Banks and Pio Vatuvei — were injured at California and limited (Banks) or out (Crichton, Vatuvei) against Utah. Sarkisian said Vatuvei, a true freshman, might be out for the season (he did not specify the injury) though Crichton and Banks could be back this week.
• Cornerback Desmond Trufant has also been limited the last two weeks with a hamstring injury. Sarkisian said Monday it was too soon to say yet what his status will be for the Colorado game.
"We'll see," he said. "Any time you are dealing with a hamstring, you know ... it's not the severity where I can come out and say he's out for the next two weeks, like some guys have been. But it's enough that it's bothered him. And so hopefully we can get him more healthy this week than he was going into the game last week. "
• Princeton Fuimaono, who started the Oregon State and California games before being injured in practice last week and sitting out against Utah, could be out for the next two games as well, Sarkisian said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta.