PHOENIX — Washington freshman tight end Hunter Bryant, who has not played in more than a month, said Thursday he is unsure if he’ll play Saturday against Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Bryant suffered a leg injury in late October against UCLA. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but has participated in recent practices.
“Recovery has been going really good. Initially, I thought I was going be out for a really long time,” Bryant said. “The fact that I can get some reps on the practice field, it’s a blessing really.
“I don’t really know if I’m playing yet, so, that’s really up in the air.”
UW does not permit freshman to speak during the regular season but Bryant met with reporters during the team’s media availability as part of the Fiesta Bowl’s requirements.
The former four-star prospect was emerging as a viable option for the Huskies in the passing game with 22 receptions for 331 yards and a touchdown.
He caught three passes for 99 yards in a 48-16 win over Fresno State in the third game of the season. His breakout game came Oct. 7 in a 38-7 win over California. Bryant finished with a career-high nine catches for 121 yards and a TD.
Two weeks later, he got injured while running after catching a 17-yard pass against the Bruins.
“I was actually going to dive over the dude to score,” Bryant said. “And as I planted to jump, he dove into my leg and as it was planted, he hit it and it hyper-extended.”
Filling big shoes
All Luke Wattenberg did was stand in for a first-round NFL-caliber left tackle and make it look as if UW never skipped a beat.
Wattenberg has started the past four games in place of junior Trey Adams and the Huskies have averaged nearly 36 points in every game Wattenberg has played.
“It’s been exciting. It’s nice to carry the flag for the team and replace Trey,” he said. “It’s hard to replace a guy like that. Me and (Andrew) Kirkland are doing our best. I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
UW lost Adams to a season-ending knee injury Oct. 14 in a loss at Arizona State. After UW’s bye, Wattenberg and Kirkland rotated at left tackle against UCLA. They did so well that Wattenberg stayed at left tackle and Kirkland became the team’s starting guard.
A consensus four-star recruit, Wattenberg signed with the Huskies in 2015 but took a redshirt last season.
He was getting playing time at the end of blowout wins until Adams’ injury thrust him into a starting role.
“You gotta block out the outside noise and focus on your game,” Wattenberg said. “Then you focus on the team and try to win and do our best.”
Chris Petersen said it best: Keishawn Bierria has the “it” factor.
The Huskies coach said his senior linebacker, who is entering his finale in the Fiesta Bowl, has a natural ability to lead and be selfless for the benefit of others.
“He’s been here a long time and he’s one of those guys where its like, ‘Wow. Where did this go? Keishawn’s actually going to be done,’” Petersen said. “You’re here for a long time and it just goes so fast. I’m excited for him to play this game.”
Bierria began five years ago as one of former UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s recruits. He redshirted in 2013 and then played 14 games in Petersen’s first year. From there, he’s become a three-year starter who is a leader on one of the best defenses in college football.
Instead of making the final college game about him, Bierria would rather make it about those who will carry on after he’s graduated.
“It’s kind of hit me but at the end of the day, I’m always going to be here for my brothers,” Bierria said. “I’m just trying to be there for them. These last few weeks, these last few days, I’ve been trying to slow myself down and understand where I’m at right now and make the best of the moment.”