SEATTLE – The question remains unanswered over whether Washington star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be available for the Huskies’ season opener against No. 19 Boise State. It may linger right up until kickoff Saturday.
It’s now as much about Seferian-Jenkins’ health as it is any possible team discipline for off-field troubles.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday that Seferian-Jenkins has not been cleared medically to play in Saturday’s opener against the Broncos while recovering from a broken right pinkie. Sarkisian gave no indication whether he believed Seferian-Jenkins would be cleared this week in time to play in Washington’s return to renovated Husky Stadium.
Seferian-Jenkins is listed as the starter on the depth chart that was released over the weekend.
“He’s not cleared to play at all. If you read it properly this is a post-training camp depth chart,” Sarkisian said. “He was limited in this morning’s practice. He has not been cleared to play physically as of yet at all.”
Whether Seferian-Jenkins would take the field against the Broncos has been up for debate since the spring, when he was arrested on investigation of driving under the influence. Sarkisian did not announce any team discipline beyond Seferian-Jenkins being suspended from spring practice. The status of the big tight end was thrown further into flux when he pleaded guilty in July to the DUI charge and served one day in jail as part of his sentence.
Sarkisian has remained mum throughout and when asked if Seferian-Jenkins would play Saturday should he be cleared, referenced his statement made before fall camp started in early August that he wouldn’t discuss any discipline.
“Come on dude. Were you at my preseason press conference?” Sarkisian said.
Seferian-Jenkins suffered the injury during practice Aug. 12 and had surgery later in the week to insert a pin and stabilize the finger.
Last season, Seferian-Jenkins caught 69 passes for 850 yards – both single-season records for Washington tight ends – and seven touchdowns. He was a third-team Associated Press All-American.
If Seferian-Jenkins can’t go in the opener, the Huskies will lose one of their biggest pass-catching options.
In last December’s Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State, Seferian-Jenkins had six receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The doubt about Seferian-Jenkins could also hamper the Huskies’ new up-tempo offense, considering this is the first time Washington is choosing to go no-huddle almost exclusively.
Seferian-Jenkins was the security receiver that quarterback Keith Price often turned to last season. Price says he has more trust in the others around him going into the season and should keep the Huskies pass game from being so focused on either Seferian-Jenkins – when he returns – or wide receiver Kasen Williams.
“We had a lot of youth last year. This year guys were making plays in training camp,” Price said. “Kevin Smith has had a tremendous camp, one of the better camps out of the receivers and we’ve had a couple of young guys, John Ross and DiAndre Campbell making plays. When guys are making their plays it’s hard to throw it to just one guy.”
The Huskies’ other concern is the distraction this week brings with the spectacle of retuning to Husky Stadium for the first time since November 2011. The $280 million renovation will finally be shown off Saturday night, although the team has been able to enjoy the facilities for the past couple of weeks.
“It makes for a special night. I think our staff and players have done a really nice job with the move in because anytime there is moving there are natural distractions,” Sarkisian said. “I think they’ve all handled it really well … and I think the team is ready to go play.”