For Austin Seferian-Jenkins, there was no offseason. But there was at least one day off.
After getting back a little sooner than expected from a disappointing loss in the National Invitational Tournament semifinals, the part-time power forward for the Huskies basketball team and standout tight end for the football team spent last Thursday doing something he has rarely done this school year – nothing.
For once, Seferian-Jenkins didn’t have a commitment to collegiate athletics.
“I slept in,” he said.
But after that one day, the Gig Harbor High graduate was back in football mode, ready to improve on a freshman season in which he caught 41 passes for 538 yards and six touchdowns.
At the first two spring practices, Seferian-Jenkins didn’t look like a person exhausted from being a two-sport participant. In fact, he looked as fresh as ever.
“Mentally I’m here,” he said. “I love it; I love what I do, and it’s a great opportunity to come out here every day and do what you love. I get to do both – basketball and football. And now I’m focused on spring football and getting better and winning a Pac-12 championship.”
Seferian-Jenkins thinks basketball helped him.
“I feel like I got thinner, but at the same time I gained weight because I was lifting weights, too,” he said. “So I just feel a lot better, a lot healthier. I weigh heavier now, but I feel a lot better. I feel smoother when I run, and healthier. Running routes, I felt smooth out there. I really felt quicker; a lot faster than last year.”
All of those wind sprints basketball coach Lorenzo Romar had him run during practice helped.
Running routes, catching the ball and athleticism are all given with Seferian-Jenkins. The biggest need for improvement in Seferian-Jenkins is blocking. And he thinks basketball helped that too.
“I feel like my footwork is better; that’s from basketball,” he said. “But I still need to get in the weight room and keep getting strong. It’s a continual process of getting better. You never want to stop and feel like you’ve made it. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow in blocking, and that’s receiving as well. I have a lot of room to grow in everything I do.”
Coach Steve Sarkisian and his revamped staff have continued themes for every day of practice. No, there isn’t a Hawaiian day, or a ’70s day with disco music. Instead, they are mental themes, such as “Turnover Wednesday.” And on this one, there were turnovers, which pleased Sarkisian.
“It’s a mindset,” he said. “Obviously, offensively we weren’t very good toady at taking care of the football. We had the interceptions, but even more importantly the opportunities to take care of the ball when we were running with it weren’t very good. The defense wasn’t able to capitalize on that. But in time, they will be able to if we don’t fix it offensively.”
Backup quarterback Derrick Brown threw two interceptions in 7-on-7 drills, and another in 11-on-11 work. He also bobbled two center exchanges and dropped a shotgun snap.
“Quite honestly, I was surprised we didn’t have more of that on Monday,” Sarkisian said. “I think there is a little bit of anxiousness there and wanting to do really well and trying to play a little faster than you need to. There’s going to be better days and there are going to be days when it’s not as good.”
To Sarkisian, it’s simple: turnovers equal wins.
“It’s huge,” Sarkisian said. “It’s huge. It’s the No. 1 stat in football. Our guys did a study here, and since 2009 when we’ve won the turnover battle we are 13-3. If you look at it that way and you really understand the value of the ball in: one, taking care of it and; two, creating turnovers and the effect it can have on you winning and losing, it has to be a huge emphasis for us.”