There are options behind Austin Seferian-Jenkins. No, they are not preseason All-Americans. They're not useless, either.
According to the Seattle Times, Seferian-Jenkins has been medically cleared but suspended for Saturday's opener against Boise State.
We're working to confirm this.
It's been a long, careening ride in the public eye for Seferian-Jenkins since his March DUI. For months, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said he wouldn't publicly disclose Seferian-Jenkins' punishment, in large part because he doesn't disclose other punishments for smaller transgressions.
There are numerous factors in the process. One is the aforementioned "lockerroom trust" issue. If Sarkisian revealed Seferian-Jenkins' punishment, then how would the next guy know he wouldn't do the same to him?
In addition, managing the public discourse around the most famous student at a school with 40,000-plus enrollees isn't just left to the football coach.
Seferian-Jenkins broke his pinkie in practice Aug. 12 and had surgery Aug. 15. He wore a small sheath for protection before appearing at practice in just receiving gloves this week. Reporters never saw him catch a pass in the first 20 minutes of practice, the only part which remains open.
Sarkisian was adamant throughout this process that not revealing Seferian-Jenkins' availability had nothing to do with gamesmanship.
Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said Monday he "absolutely" expected Seferian-Jenkins to play, but also said he general impact on preparation with or without Seferian-Jenkins was minimal.
"That doesn’t matter," Peteresen said. "We’re preparing for their scheme and whoever they put out there, they put out there. Their tight end is going to be part of their offense no matter who is out there."
He said Seferian-Jenkins is obviously a tough cover and that they tried to surround him with multiple bodies during the Las Vegas Bowl. Seferian-Jenkins had six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Huskies' 28-26 loss.
The Huskies feel like they have several more offensive weapons this season. There is also an internal feeling that they can beat Boise State with or without Seferian-Jenkins.
If he doesn't play, Washington would turn to two other tight ends who combined for six catches last season.
The more experienced of the two is redshirt junior Michael Hartvigson. He has a frame similar to Seferian-Jenkins’ – Hartvigson is 6-foot-6, 257 pounds to Seferian-Jenkins’ 6-6, 276 – but hasn’t been able to get rolling in either of his seasons as Seferian-Jenkins’ backup.
Hartvigson had six catches for 55 yards last year after pulling in eight passes for 30 yards and a touchdown his redshirt freshman season.
While his pass-catching opportunities were limited with Seferian-Jenkins in the fold, more was expected from Hartvigson.
“I’m going to try to rebound now and keep on elevating my game,” Hartvigson said during camp. “Austin’s a good player, but at the same time, this isn’t tennis. It takes all the O-line, all 11 guys on the field. Our job is just to contribute whether it’s blocking or catching the ball. Anything we can do to help the team out.”
He and converted receiver Josh Perkins are the backup tight ends. Perkins was working with the No. 1 offense when Seferian-Jenkins’ was out because of his broken pinkie. Washington had shifted Evan Hudson, who caught five passes for 31 yards last season, to the defensive line at the start of fall camp. Sarkisian has said there are still parts of the offense that will involve Hudson.
As a former receiver, Perkins’s much lighter than Seferian-Jenkins and Hartvigson. Perkins weighs 224 pounds. He's also faster.
“I just say, when they call my number, I’ve just got to make plays.,” the redshirt sophomore Perkins said earlier in camp. “I’m not going to be Austin, I’m not going to try to be Austin, I’m going to try to be me.”