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Athletic group of tight ends vying to replace Seferian-Jenkins

Perkins

Perkins -

Joshua Perkins had three touchdowns among his five catches in 2013, and he will be a key player for the Huskies at tight end this season.

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

Most of the headlines surrounding the Washington football team this fall have revolved around the uncertainty in the backfield. And rightfully so, since the quarterback and running back are the two players who have the most control over the ball on offense, and Keith Price and Bishop Sankey are two of the best players in recent memory to put on the purple and gold.

But another interesting battle is developing at tight end, another position where the Huskies are replacing a star. In three years at the UW, Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught 146 passes for 1838 yards and 21 touchdowns, all school records for a tight end. His eight touchdowns last season earned him the first John Mackey Award in UW history, and helped him become the 38th overall pick in April’s NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Without the imposing presence of the 6-foot-6 Seferian-Jenkins, the Huskies will have to rely on a group of tight ends who each have different skill sets and experience levels. Junior Joshua Perkins played in all 13 games last year, scoring three touchdowns on five receptions. Senior Michael Hartvigson brings in Seferian-Jenkins-like size, but all of his 14 career catches came prior to last season. Sophomore Darrell Daniels did not record a catch last year, but the former wideout is probably the best receiver in the group. And that doesn’t take into account former quarterback Derrick Brown or redshirt freshman David Ajamu, both of whom have caught some eyes during camp.

So, even if he doesn’t have a star like he did last season, tight ends coach Jordan Paopao has plenty of options.

“There’s two or three guys right now that are really trying to bite, scratch, and claw for that starting position,” Paopao said. “Guys like Josh Perkins, that have played before, and Michael Hartvigson, will have obvious advantages to be able to win the job.”

While Perkins and Hartvigson may have the inside edge to the starting job, head coach Chris Petersen said that he expects to use a committee of tight ends to try and replace Seferian-Jenkins’ productivity. It’s likely that Perkins, Hartvigson, and Daniels will all see the field during the season opener in Hawaii.

That fits right in with the mindset and attitude of the group. Daniels said that the group is tighter-knit this year than it was last season.

“Collectively, we’re all getting to know each other and we’re all closer this year,” Daniels said. “It’s all a fun competition where we are all teaching each other. It’s more like a family this year.”

While the transition from a star like Seferian-Jenkins to a group of athletes is never an easy one, Paopao is confident that his group will be able to pick up the slack. The fact that some of the competitors have very little experience at tight end only makes that transition tougher.

Both Daniels and Perkins have spent time in the past at receiver, with Daniels’ position change only happening during the 2013 season. Brown is a former quarterback. None of the players really fits the tight end mold, but each has been working to get there.

“With Austin, it’s extremely rare to find such a physical specimen, a guy that’s really able to naturally do a lot of different things and do them very well,” Paopao said. “With this group, we do things well but we really have to work on different facets of our game. To their tribute, I think the biggest difference is those guys have been unbelievably committed to really improving the lacking parts of their game, where Austin’s main focus was refining a lot of the stuff that I think he did naturally well.”

In eleven days, the first tight end will step from the UW bench onto the field and “win” the starting job. While who that will be is still very much up in the air, one thing is almost certain: he won’t be the UW’s only tight end on the field in Hawaii.

Reach Sports Editor Daniel Rubens at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @drubens12

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