By Gregg Bell – UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – While they wait for news on when Austin Seferian-Jenkins may return from Thursday’s finger surgery, the Huskies are moving on with Plan B at tight end.
Make that Plan B and 1B.
Coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed after the 13th practice of fall camp that Seferian-Jenkins, a preseason All-America tight end, had surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in the small finger on his right hand. Sarkisian did not yet have a prognosis for his invaluable passing target when asked immediately following Thursday afternoon’s rainy, two-hour workout at Husky Stadium.
But the coach and offensive play caller has already moved into planning for the possibility the Huskies will not have Seferian-Jenkins Aug. 31 against Boise State.
Thursday, Sarkisian paired Michael Hartvigson, a 6-foot-6, 257-pound junior with the size to pick up some edge-blocking slack in ASJ’s absence, with converted wide receiver Joshua Perkins as UW stayed with its regular array of two-tight end sets. Hartvigson, Seferian-Jenkins’ backup, had what UW’s coach called his best practice this month.
If Sarkisian can get away with staying in two tight-end formations even with Seferian-Jenkins out, it will be a coup. It would keep the offense balanced as the coach wants between run and pass — plus perhaps keep defenses from double-teaming as much outside as one might think against wide receivers Kasen Williams, Jaydon Mickens and surging freshman John Ross.
"That’s all the stuff we need to answer by next week," Sarkisian said, showing he is thinking as he must — for the scenario that ASJ may be O-U-T for a game or so.
That makes Hartvigson and Perkins the men of the hour in UW’s offense.
One converted tight end is not rejoining the offense to fill in for Seferian-Jenkins – because he is suddenly too good on the other side of the ball
Evan Hudson is an ongoing revelation on the defensive line.
"No, Evan’s doin’ awesome," Sarkisian said. "Evan, shoot, he’s starting for us. He’s exactly what we are looking for. And to Evan’s credit, he has gotten better and better and better and better, every practice since we’ve been going.
"For us, because of what we are doing, to have a strong-side defensive end and be that physical and take on double teams … is really essential. And he’s doing a good job."
The 6-foot-5, 277-pound Hudson says he is using his tight-end knowledge to read the stances and first steps of not only ends but the offensive’s tackles and guards. That is giving him a heads up on what play may be coming and how he is about to be blocked, and he’s proactively beating blockers to that impact point.
Perkins is 6-2 and 224 pounds, four inches shorter and 52 pounds lighter than Seferian-Jenkins. So naturally he still needs to improve his blocking of defensive ends, tackles and linebackers. He admitted that Thursday.
"But I like that I get to line up on a linebacker," on passing routes, Perkins said with a big grin.
He caught 70 passes for 1,072 yards and 11 touchdowns while a senior in 2010 for Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., as a wide receiver. Then he made his collegiate debut as a redshirt freshman tight end last September at LSU, so it’s not as if he’s never played the position on a mammoth stage.
This past spring practice, coaches cemented his status as a full-time tight end. Now, at least until more definitive word on Seferian-Jenkins, Hudson is with the first team.
"It’s great. I love it," Perkins said of tight end. "It’s a new change, a new challenge.
"Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it."
Asked what his pals back home in Cerritos say of their star wide out getting co-top billing now at tight end in the Pac-12, Perkins laughed.
"They say, ‘Well, at least you are getting on the field."
DAWG BONES: The Huskies got good injury news on emerging OLB Cory Littleton: “Nothing serious,” Sarkisian said, after the sophomore was helped off the field Wednesday night and taken into the training room with a team doctor to look at his lower leg. “If we would have played today he probably could have played,” Sarkisian said. … The Huskies will be in full pads Friday morning then in helmet and shorts Friday. They will have a full, closed scrimmage Saturday. … Special-teams coach Johnny Nansen said that within a day or so of Saturday’ scrimmage the team wants to settle on its field-goal kicker, kickoff man and punter. Senior Travis Coons and freshman Cameron Van WInkle each made three of four field-goal tries Thursday, from 28, 33, 36 and 43 yards. Coons mis-hit a low liner wide left from 43 yards. Van Winkle was wide right from 28. "Right now, it’s wide open," Nansen said of the field-goal competition.