By Mason Kelley
There isn’t going to be another Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
When Washington tight ends coach Jordan Paopao talks to his players about filling the void left by the first-round draft pick, he doesn’t ask them step directly into the NFL rookie’s shoes.
“At the end of the day, you don’t ask someone to be another Austin Seferian-Jenkins,” Paopao said. “I think they’re ultimately going to be the best versions of themselves.”
Instead of being the next No. 88, Paopao challenges the Huskies’ tight ends to use their talents to maintain the position’s rich history.
“I think it was an outstanding deal for them to be able to learn under Austin and see what a true, dominant tight end looks like,” Paopao said. “Now it’s up to them to keep the standard high.”
Without a returning starter at the position, Paopao said the competition has been “great” throughout the start of fall camp.
“It’s a very level playing field out there and, naturally, anytime that happens, you’re going to have guys who have great days and guys who take steps back, but are ultimately able to recover,” he said.
“The competitive nature of everyone in the room, knowing what’s up for grabs in terms of playing time, makes my job enjoyable. They realize that, if they have a bad day, someone is going to rise above them.
When asked which players have impressed him so far, Paopao pointed to junior Joshua Perkins, who has a natural edge, because of his experience. He said sophomore Darrell Daniels has done some “unbelievable stuff.” He also praised the work of senior Michael Hartvigson, while mentioning that some of the younger players have made some “great plays.”
“It’s cool to see everybody contributing and playing well up to this point,” Paopao said.
As he works to groom the Huskies’ tight ends, he has also been tasked with assimilating to a new coaching staff. For Paopao, that transition has been seamless.
“I love these guys,” he said. “They have been unbelievable to work with. They have an unbelievable wealth of knowledge that I’ve really been able to buy into, and coach Pete is the real deal. He’s an unbelievable role model, and example of what coaching should be like and how you should conduct yourself.”