Chris Petersen strives for a calm environment around the University of Washington football.
His first regular-season press conference Monday was anything but. Before taking questions, Petersen announced that four players would miss the season opener at Rutgers on Friday.
Linebacker Azeem Victor, a preason All-American first-teamer, was suspended one game, and cornerback Austin Joyner was suspended two games for violating an unspecified team rule. Both will not make the trip to New Brunswick, New Jersey.
The others – tight end David Ajamu (leg) and offensive lineman John Turner (retired) – are injury-related.
The big blow came with Ajamu, the redshirt senior from Shelton who was expected to serve as the No. 3 tight end behind Drew Sample and Will Dissly. He broke his leg during a practice in the third week of fall camp.
“He’s had surgery, so he won’t play this year,” Petersen said.
It is uncertain at this point if Ajamu will apply for a sixth year of football. Petersen did not declare his football career over.
That wasn’t all that happened to Ajamu, either. On Aug. 5, his Park Meridian apartment complex in Northgate went up in flames, causing an estimated $6 million in damages.
Petersen said all of Ajamu’s belongings were lost in the fire.
“We’re doing everything that we can do NCAA-wise, and giving him as much money as we can,” Petersen said.
Because Ajamu had surgery just days ago, Petersen said the veteran will not travel for the opening game, either.
“He’ll be around, and he’ll figure out what his next thing is,” Petersen said. “Everybody’s going to have to do that sooner or later.”
With Ajamu out,the top four on the tight-end depth chart are Sample, Dissly, sophomore Michael Neal and true freshman Hunter Bryant, the former five-star recruit out of Eastside Catholic.
Petersen said he could see one of the other true freshmen — Jacob Kizer, who came to the UW last winter, or Tumwater product Cade Otton — now playing this season.
“We may play one more,” Petersen said. “The tight end position is a really physical position. Those guys always get hurt. That’s what happens. They’re in there running routes and blocking 280-pound defensive ends, so they’re right in the mix of everything at all times.
“You have to have some depth there.”
Otton, at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, is the grandson of recently-retired Tumwater High School football coach Sid Otton, who has more prep wins in the state of Washington than anybody.
“I always feel a little bit bad for those tight ends in this offense. When they come in as new guys, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose,” Petersen said. “But he’s a really sharp kid. He’s done a nice job.”
The Huskies held a morning practice in their home stadium Monday. Loud cheering was piped in through the loudspeakers to try and get the players acclimated to playing at Rutgers. ... With transfer quarterback Kyle Bolin, and new play-caller Jerry Kill in the fold, Petersen expects the Rutgers offense to be very different than the one the Huskies shut down a year ago. “They’ve upgraded, without question,” Petersen said. ... Petersen is 8-3 in season opening games, but just 3-3 away from home. His worst loss was to the UW in 2013 – 38-6 – in his final season at Boise State.