SEATTLE — Austin Seferian-Jenkins wants everyone to stop worrying about his numbers halfway through his junior season at Washington.
A season ago, he was arguably the most dynamic, most important tight end in the country. He finished the year tied for the most catches and with the most yards per game of any tight end in the country. He was a finalist for every major award handed out at his position and a third-team All-America selection.
Now? Seferian-Jenkins barely cracks the top 25 nationally of tight ends with 16 receptions and ranks fourth on his team.
But the 20th-ranked Huskies are 4-2 and have an offense that ranks eighth nationally led by the nation’s leading rusher in Bishop Sankey heading into Saturday’s game at Arizona State.
The Huskies have gone up-tempo in an attempt to create more options for an offense that a year ago basically had only Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams as options. Getting others involved and getting more victories is what Seferian-Jenkins says is most important.
“I really don’t care about my numbers. 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,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “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.”
Last season, Seferian-Jenkins tied for the lead nationally with 69 receptions despite playing one less game than Stanford’s Zach Ertz, who also had 69 catches. The 65.4 yards receiving per game that Seferian-Jenkins averaged was the best in the country and his ability to make catches when the target of defenses was why he became a third-team All-America selection and was the preseason choice as the best tight end in the country from many publications.
But he’s struggled at times to find his place in the Huskies’ new offense that accentuates speed and getting players into space. It didn’t help that when Washington was making the transaction during spring practice, Seferian-Jenkins was suspended from team activities after being arrested for driving under the influence. He was later suspended for the season opener against Boise State after pleading guilty to a DUI charge.
Seferian-Jenkins said what hasn’t been noticed is that he’s been called upon to stay in and block more this season, both in the run and pass game. It’s an area coach Steve Sarkisian challenged Seferian-Jenkins to get better at going into fall camp.
“They need me to block more and help with the running game and pass protection and that’s just what it is,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’m excited to do that because I love blocking, I love pass protection. I love running routes too and that’s why I play tight end because I get to do all three things. I’m blessed to be in the position that I am.”
There was a belief that last week against Oregon would be when Seferian-Jenkins finally broke out as a pass catcher with the middle of the Ducks defense appearing vulnerable. That didn’t happen as Seferian-Jenkins finished with two catches — one of them an acrobatic touchdown reception. Quarterback Keith Price said that while defenses are not using new coverages on Seferian-Jenkins when he’s out in routes, they are making sure he doesn’t go unnoticed.
Sarkisian would like to get Seferian-Jenkins more involved but won’t do it at the expense of taking away from the other aspects of Washington’s offense.
“We’ve got a good offensive football team. We move the ball very efficiently. We’re effective in the red zone. We’re very effective on third down and the reality of it is because of our balance,” Sarkisian said. “Because who are you going to cover? What are you going to stop? That’s where we want to be. For those guys I’d love for them to have a big game or two or three here coming forward but so much of what we do is dependent on what the defense gives us and we operate accordingly and so does the quarterback so that won’t change moving forward.”