Before Washington won its game last week at USC, the Huskies lost a tight end to injury.
David Ajamu, a third-year sophomore who starred at Shelton High School, apparently planted his foot awkwardly during pregame warm-ups in Los Angeles and sustained a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of this season.
At 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds, Ajamu worked his way into UW’s crowded tight end rotation, appearing in each of the Huskies’ first five games and starting two of them. He also appeared in every game last season as a redshirt freshman — on special teams, mostly — but has yet to catch a pass in a college game.
“That’s a hard one for us, because David was making such great progress. He really was,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “He was doing a good job. But we’ll get him back next year.”
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The Huskies are still well-stocked at tight end with fifth-year senior Joshua Perkins, junior Darrell Daniels and redshirt freshman Drew Sample. That trio has combined for 26 receptions, 335 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season — though Perkins has been by far the most productive of the three, catching 17 passes for 224 yards.
Petersen also said that third-year sophomore Dane Crane, who made his UW debut this season in a reserve role, recently underwent a procedure to repair a back injury, though the coach stopped short of ruling the offensive lineman out for the rest of the season.
Aside from Crane, UW offensive line coach Chris Strausser said this week that his group is the healthiest it has been since the season began. A number of injuries sustained during practice caused the Huskies to use three combinations of starters on the offensive line in five games.
Fourth-year junior Jake Eldrenkamp returned from an undisclosed injury against USC and played every snap at left guard, where he played the season’s first two games before missing the next two. Andrew Kirkland, who had played only as a reserve, made his first career start at right tackle against USC and “competed well,” Strausser said.
Third-year sophomore Coleman Shelton has started every game this season, but at three positions (left tackle, left guard and right tackle). Siosifa Tufunga, the team’s starting center, is the only offensive lineman to start each game at the same position.
Fourth-year junior guard Shane Brostek and redshirt freshmen tackles Matt James and Kaleb McGary are also presumably in the mix, assuming each is healthy. Brostek hasn’t played guard since the second game of the season after he, too, sustained an undisclosed injury during practice, and Kirkland played ahead of James and McGary last week at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Jesse Sosebee, who started in Brostek’s place at right guard against Utah State and California, was not in the starting lineup against USC.
Heading into Saturday’s game against Oregon, though, Strausser said “this is probably the healthiest we’ve been since we started the season. We’ve got a full three lines, which is good. We’ve got a full scout-team crew. We’ve got guys really working 1s and 2s right now, which is the first time all season we’ve had that.”
He said he has no issue with the shuffling.
“It doesn’t bother me that we’ve got a lot of guys playing some football,” Strausser said. “I think down the road that helps everybody. Guys stay involved. Football’s different nowadays. It’s not just five guys play all the time.”
Despite the lopsided point totals that Oregon’s defense has allowed this season, Strausser said the Huskies’ offensive line will have its hands full with what he considers a stout front seven — particularly defensive end DeForest Buckner, who will likely line up against UW freshman left tackle Trey Adams.
“He knows he needs to make strides,” Strausser said of Adams, “because the opponents get better and better every week. He’s lined up against a guy that’s probably a top-10 draft pick this week.”
A UW spokesperson said about 67,000 tickets have been distributed for Saturday’s game against Oregon at Husky Stadium. UW’s most-attended game so far this season was its Pac-12 opener against Cal on Sept. 26 (61,066). … Oregon coach Mark Helfrich won’t publicly name his starting quarterback — speculation suggests that Vernon Adams Jr. might return from injury and play — but Petersen said it doesn’t matter to him. “Whoever the quarterback is, they’ve been explosive,” Petersen said. … Pac-12 Vice President of Officiating David Coleman told ESPN on Wednesday that the targeting call made against UW linebacker Azeem Victor in the USC game was correct. Victor was ejected from the game and must sit out the first half against Oregon.
SATURDAY: Oregon (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) at Washington (3-2, 1-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN2, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM