Player Spotlight - Austin Seferian-Jenkins

SEATTLE - Gone is No. 35; it's now back to No. 88 and your regularly-scheduled programming for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who just finished a 17-game season with the Washington basketball team. On Monday, the freshman TE from Gig Harbor turned sophomore, and the 6-foot-6, 258-pound Seferian-Jenkins went from banging in the paint from working on swim moves with new DL Coach Tosh Lupoi.

Swim moves? "Yeah, just working on some speed rush, some different types of defensive stuff, just trying to get better and multiply my talents," Seferian-Jenkins told the media after Monday's first workout of the spring.

So was that for Austin's benefit in dealing with defenders off the line of scrimmage to get separation, or was that for a unique package built-in just for Seferian-Jenkins for that unexpected fourth-quarter cameo?

"You'd have to ask coach that, I don't know," Seferian-Jenkins said, not batting an eye.

It's been less than a week since Washington's NIT semifinal loss to Minnesota in New York City, but Seferian-Jenkins doesn't need to wait. In fact he doesn't need any downtime at all. "Mentally I'm here," he said. "I love it; I love what I do, and it's a great opportunity to come out here every day and do what you love, and I get to do both - basketball and football. And now I'm focused on spring football and getting better and winning a Pac-12 championship with the University of Washington football team."

Even when Seferian-Jenkins was in the throes of basketball season, he didn't neglect football at all. He fit it in when he was available to do so. "I was still out there," he said. "I think I caught the ball in five different sessions…I still got out there and ran routes. I couldn't do as much as everyone else, but I did as much as I could."

So was Seferian-Jenkins able to tell Monday if basketball helped him become a better football player? "I feel like my footwork is better; that's from basketball," he said when talking about his blocking. "But I still need to get in the weight room and keep getting strong. It's a continual process of getting better. You never want to stop and feel like you've made it. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow in blocking, and that's receiving as well. I have a lot of room to grow in everything I do."

It sounds like playing hoops definitely helped Seferian-Jenkins get in better shape. "I feel like I got thinner, but at the same time I gained weight because I was lifting weights too," he said. "So I just feel a lot better, a lot healthier. I weigh heavier now, but I feel a lot better. I feel smoother when I run, and healthier. Today running routes, I felt smooth out there. I really felt quicker; a lot faster than last year. And I feel like my conditioning is a lot better, I'm not getting as tired as last year. Appreciate the basketball coach so getting me in shape running all those seventeens."

Seferian-Jenkins not only is physically and mentally ready to tackle the rigors of spring football, he's got the time management down too. "You've got to pace your body on the weekends," he said, matter-of-factly. "You can't just be going out…people want to be going out and partying, but sometimes you've got to realize that you're doing a little more than everyone else, so you need to relax and sit in that ice bath and just chill and hang out with people in your dorm. You don't need to be out late at night…just get that homework done and sleep some on the weekends."

Technically he may not be an upperclassman, but in an offense with few seniors, Seferian-Jenkins might be pushed into a leadership role. "I'm going to try and do whatever I can for the team," he said. "If that means a leadership role, then it's a leadership role. That would be great. I'd love to do that; I'd love to fill that role. I'm going to do my best to do whatever I can."

Rarely when playing hoops was Seferian-Jenkins teaming up with anyone down in the front court; he was usually Lorenzo Romar's one-man wrecking crew. But in football he has the benefit of having some other good tight ends playing alongside him. Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian mentioned Friday how he felt fellow sophomore TE Michael Hartvigson may have been the off-season MVP for the work he did with Strength and Conditioning Coach Ivan Lewis to prepare him for this upcoming season.

"He's doing great; I'm really happy for Michael," Seferian-Jenkins said of Hartvigson. "You know he had that shoulder surgery (as a true freshman) and he was finally able to get back in the weight room and his shoulders are healthy. He's looking like a really good football player and he's getting bigger. His body is changing and his running routes is better. I'm so happy for him. It's going to be great to have another big tight end next to me; It's going to be fun. I'm excited for everyone to watch."

As an eligible receiver, you have to have someone that can get you the ball, and Keith Price was able to get Seferian-Jenkins the ball 41 times in 2011. Both players are expected to continue their upward offensive trajectory, and Seferian-Jenkins knows the sky is the limit for the junior signal-caller from Compton, Calif.

"Even with the knee problems, he was still better than a lot of the Pac-12 quarterbacks, so he's going to be even better with no knee problems," Seferian-Jenkins said of Price. "So watch out; he's going to be running all over the place, and it's going to be fun and interesting to watch."

What is going to be just as interesting in watching Seferian-Jenkins is just how long he can keep up the pace. Playing both sports in high school is one thing; managing that kind of workload, as well as the academic rigors of college is quite another. For his part, Seferian-Jenkins isn't looking any further ahead than what's asked of him tomorrow.

"If you just focus on the actual things, the outcome will be what you want it to be," he said. "I'm just focusing on the here and how, and the future will take care of itself."
Notes:
Tight End competition - When it comes to the tight end position, while you can take nothing for granted it sure feels like the natural order of things has already been established. And that means Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the starter, Michael Hartvigson is the second TE in the two-tight end sets, and Evan Hudson is the third TE. A player like Cooper Pelluer could factor into the rotation at some point when he gets to 100 percent health, but for right now these three have the position pretty much on lock-down.

Seferian-Jenkins on Terrence Ross' decision to turn pro - "I'm so happy for him. Me and Terrence, we're good friends. I'm so happy that he's going to be able to go out and fulfill a lifetime dream. I appreciate what he's done for the University of Washington; I think everyone can appreciate that. He's a special player and he's going to do a lot of great things in the NBA and I'm really excited for him."


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