Huskies look to Gig Harbor’s Seferian-Jenkins

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — When the University of Washington football team takes the field for its first spring ball practice this afternoon, one of the most important players on the field may well be one of the few newcomers.

Freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a five-star recruit from Gig Harbor, was expected to enroll in school Monday and should be on the field when the Huskies open spring ball today.

His presence will be noticeable not just because he carries 250 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame but also because Seferian-Jenkins could give the Huskies a passing threat at the position that was missing all last season.

“He has the potential, not only physically but mentally,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “But we’re not going to force the issue, either. We’re going to allow him to grow.”

The Huskies are in a somewhat desperate state after two underclassmen and former big-time recruits left the program in the past year. Former starter Kavario Middleton got kicked off the team for violating a team rule last spring, while replacement Chris Izbicki left under his own volition near the end of the 2010 season.

That leaves the Huskies with a total of just four receptions at the position heading into the spring _ all of them by current sophomore Marlion Barnett.

Barnett, freshman Michael Hartvigson and Seferian-Jenkins appear to have the inside track on a starting job. Seferian-Jenkins has the most potential and will get a head start on his college career after enrolling early _ a common practice among incoming freshmen, provided they graduate early from high school.

Seferian-Jenkins is the only incoming freshman expected to participate in spring ball, and the Huskies will take every opportunity to see how ready he is for the college game.

“We will throw him in the fire on Day 1,” Sarkisian said. “He’ll be right in there with our (first team), and he’ll have to block (defensive end) Hau’oli Jamora, and he’ll have to block Everette Thompson, and he’s going to run routes against (UW’s starting defensive backs).

“He’s going to do those things, and we’ll assess his strengths, we’ll try to assess his weaknesses, and we’ll see how far we can take him in a short amount of time.”

>Comings and goings

A lineman on either side of the ball has opted to hang up his cleats due to health issues.

Offensive lineman Mykenna Ikehara, who was a top reserve during the 2009 season but rarely saw action last fall, and defensive end Kalani Aldrich have decided to quit playing football, Sarkisian said Monday.

Aldrich, a junior, has battled knee issues for most of his career at UW.

Sarkisian added that injuries will keep several other players off the practice field this month. Offensive lineman Nick Wood (hip surgery), cornerback Adam Long (knee surgery) and defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi (broken ankle) are not expected to be available for spring ball.

Several key players could also be limited due to injury, including three projected starters: safety Sean Parker (stinger), left tackle Senio Kelemete (plantar fascia injury) and Talia Crichton (knee). Also ailing are cornerback Greg Ducre (shoulder), safety Taz Stevenson (shoulder), linebacker Princeton Fuimaono (shoulder), linebacker Cooper Pelluer (shoulder), defensive lineman Chris Robinson (knee), running back Deontae Cooper (knee) and punter Will Mahan (knee).

In addition, running back Johri Fogerson is not expected to be available for spring ball because he’s been suspended indefinitely.

>Bad publicity

Sarkisian said he is not overly concerned about the reputation of his program following the arrests of two members of the 2010 team, but he did add that the recent scrapes with the law have been “disappointing.”

Fogerson and former wide receiver Jordan Polk were arrested for separate incidents within a few weeks of each other.

“Sure, it’s disappointing when problems arise,” Sarkisian said, “but at the end of the day, I’ve got 115 sons, and we are going to make some mistakes. That’s the reality of it. We try to learn from one another, we try to learn from our own, and you try to move forward and grow.”

>New looks?

The Huskies could look a little different at times this spring _ on both sides of the ball.

Sarkisian said Monday that part of the offseason analysis led to the conclusion that UW’s drop-back passing game was, in his words, “poor, at best” last season. In an effort to improve upon that, UW quarterbacks could spend a bigger part of the spring lining up directly behind center.

But Sarkisian added that his team will continue to operate primarily out of the shotgun.

“I’m not, by any means, sitting here and saying we’re going to scrap shotgun,” he said. “We’re going to be in the gun plenty.”

In addition, UW will dedicate part of its practice sessions to a no-huddle offense that was used with some level of effectiveness last season.

On defense, the Huskies will continue to tinker with a 3-4 defense. But Sarkisian said the 4-3 look that was predominant in each of his first two seasons is how UW will line up when camp opens.

“We’re not going to rush to that,” Sarkisian said of the 3-4 look, which could feature undersized defensive ends Hau’oli Jamora and Josh Shirley as pass-rushing linebackers. “We want to get our base defense in first, and then we’ll evolve to that.”

Short yardage

Jarret Finau, an incoming freshman who was supposed to join Seferian-Jenkins as an early entrant, did not complete his classes and won’t start practicing until the fall. … Injuries at the cornerback position have left the Huskies with very little depth behind starters Quinton Richardson and Desmond Trufant. Safeties Justin Glenn and Marquis Persley, who started as cornerbacks, are likely to see time there in the spring. … Sarkisian said that freshman middle linebacker Garret Gilliland has moved outside, where he’s likely to open camp as a backup to junior-college transfer Thomas Tutogi. The other starting spot on the outside could come down to freshman Johnny Timu and Jamaal Kearse, the younger brother of junior receiver Jermaine Kearse.

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