By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — A tight end, wearing a purple Washington jersey, made what his coach termed “a circus catch” before sprinting the requisite distance for a 74-yard touchdown during the Huskies’ spring practice on Tuesday morning.
Impressive catches by UW tight ends have not occurred infrequently in recent years, with former Mackey Award winner Austin Seferian-Jenkins manning that spot for three seasons.
But even with Seferian-Jenkins gone from UW and awaiting May’s NFL draft, the Huskies still feel they’re well-stocked at a position that has produced plenty of talent for the better part of the past 30 years.
The aforementioned touchdown catch hauled in by sophomore Darrell Daniels can only enhance that optimism.
Daniels said he didn’t see the pass from quarterback Jeff Lindquist until the ball was nearly on top of him, so he stuck his hand up and hoped for the best.
“He throws it another foot in front, he probably doesn’t have to make the circus catch,” coach Chris Petersen said. “But that’s what quarterbacks need. They need guys to make plays. They don’t need guys that are wide open and can catch a hitch. I can do that, and I’m old. So we need better than me out there. So we need playmakers, and we saw one out there today.”
Daniels came to UW as part of former coach Steve Sarkisian’s much-heralded 2013 recruiting class, joining Damore’ea Stringfellow and John Ross to give the Huskies a trio of 4-star receiver prospects.
But midway through last season, Sarkisian moved Daniels from receiver to tight end, a position that better suits his 6-foot-4, 241-pound frame (he was listed at 232 pounds when the switch was made).
“I just accepted it,” Daniels said Tuesday. “It was a business move, a business decision between me and that staff. I feel like it’s a better fit for me, and I’m going to try to excel at the position.”
He has competition. UW returns two players — junior Josh Perkins (5 catches, 57 yards, 3 touchdowns) and senior Michael Hartvigson (14 career catches, 85 yards) — who have game experience, albeit limited. And redshirt freshman David Ajamu, as well as junior Derrick Brown, a converted quarterback, have also been in the mix this spring.
Players say Petersen’s offense utilizes the tight end in a similar fashion to Sarkisian — they’ll be required to be versatile, lining up wide on occasion, but also putting their hand on the ground to help pass-protect and assist in the run game.
“I’ve been impressed with that group,” Petersen said. “I think they’re very focused, I think we’ve made good progress. I think there’s some talent there. We stay healthy there, that’s going to be a real good group.
“They’re hard to find, those big bodies that can run, catch, block, run game. So they’re really hard to find. And when we find guys, we’ll find ways to get them the ball.”
No news on Miles, Stringfellow
Petersen said again Tuesday there is no change in the status of third-year sophomore quarterback Cyler Miles or sophomore receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, both of whom have been suspended since early February after an alleged assault in the University District on Feb. 2.
Stringfellow has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of malicious mischief in connection with the incident, and is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday in King County District Court. Miles was not charged.
UW has been practicing with two quarterbacks — Lindquist and Troy Williams — the entire spring. But Petersen wouldn’t say if one of those two players is assured the starting job come fall, or if Miles will have an opportunity to return to the team and compete for the job, too.
“We’ll answer all those questions here down the road for you guys,” Petersen said. “I don’t want to go off and just answer partial this, that, when we really haven’t set everything with that. When I get that answer, we’ll answer that for you guys.”