By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Austin Seferian-Jenkins had fewer catches and receiving yards for the Washington Huskies as a junior than he did as a freshman or sophomore, but his refined blocking ability apparently made up the difference when it came time for John Mackey Award voters to cast their ballots.
Seferian-Jenkins, a native of Fox Island and a Gig Harbor High School alum, was recognized on Wednesday as the Mackey Award winner, an honor bestowed each year upon the nation’s best tight end. According to the Mackey website, the award is voted on by “respected members of the media and former NFL players.”
He is the first player in school history to win the award, and the first UW player since former defensive tackle Steve Emtman to win a national award of any kind. Emtman won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1991.
A press release posted on the Mackey Award website states that Seferian-Jenkins “established a reputation for his elite blocking ability and strong receiving prowess.” It was likely the former that earned him enough votes to win the award.
Seferian-Jenkins caught 33 passes for 413 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games this season. The other semifinalists were North Carolina’s Eric Ebron (55 catches, 895 yards, three touchdowns) and Nick O’Leary of Florida State (33 catches, 557 yards, seven touchdowns).
Seferian-Jenkins’ receiving numbers were down from a year ago, when he set school records for a tight end by catching 69 passes for 850 yards. He also holds the career tight-end records at UW for receptions (143), yards (1,801) and touchdowns (20).
When his pass-catching production failed to match what he did last year — his targets took a dip, too — former coach Steve Sarkisian defended Seferian-Jenkins by noting that the big tight end’s run-blocking was one of the biggest reasons why running back Bishop Sankey had such a successful season.
And UW finished the regular season averaging 514.3 yards per game, which ranks eighth in the country. Seferian-Jenkins was voted second-team All Pac-12 by coaches.
“It’s not about the numbers, per se,” Sarkisian said of Seferian-Jenkins on Nov. 27. “Our offensive numbers are light years ahead of where they were a year ago, and we’re a better offensive football than where we were a year ago. That wouldn’t be the case if Austin hadn’t improved at the tight end position the way he has. He’s still a great weapon for us in the red zone. He’s still excellent on third down. He’s still a tremendous mismatch when we split him out and he gets on corners 1 on 1. But what he’s done blocking in the run game and in pass protection, he’s just light years ahead of where he was a year ago. I think that’s part of the reason why our offense is so much better.”
Sankey rushed for 1,775 — a UW single-season record — in the team’s first 12 games.
“I really don’t care about my numbers,” Seferian-Jenkins told the Associated Press in October. “I’m getting better at blocking. I’m making almost every play that comes my way except for one this season. I’m not really worried about that. I think that people that don’t really understand the game of football and are just fans that think people just show up on Saturday and go, I don’t think they understand the work that we put in here and what our schemes are and what we’re trying to do. It’s not about me. I think people are too caught up with what I’m doing. It’s just numbers. I’m trying to win.”
Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins are both in Orlando, Fla., for the Home Depot College Football Awards show, which will air at 4 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. Sankey is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back.
Both players are juniors, and both are weighing their NFL options. During media availability on Wednesday with awards finalists in Orlando, Sankey said he was “50-50” on returning for his senior season, according to Joe Schad of ESPN.
UW said last week that Seferian-Jenkins has submitted paperwork to the NFL draft evaluation committee — a common practice among draft-eligible juniors — which provides feedback to collegiate prospects as to which round of the draft they are most likely to be selected in.
Petersen building staff
According to the Idaho Statesman, new UW coach Chris Petersen will add at least four Boise State assistants to his first UW coaching staff.
Keith Bhonapha (running backs), Pete Kwiatkowski (defensive coordinator), Chris Strausser (offensive line) and Jimmy Lake (defensive backs) have reportedly accepted positions as assistant coaches. Bhonapha has already left Boise, according to the report, while the rest are expected to coach the Broncos through their bowl game.
Current UW offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto told KJR 950 AM on Wednesday that he will not return next season.