SEATTLE — Austin Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t exactly running free through the Washington defense Tuesday as he grabbed a 47-yard touchdown pass from Keith Price — the highlight of the most significant scrimmaging thus far for the Huskies.
But he was definitely freer than he’d been in the spring.
The reception by the sophomore tight end, in which he broke open on a go route and caught an on-target pass from Price before falling backward into the end zone, is the kind of play Seferian-Jenkins has made often in the first week of camp.
And it’s the kind of play that was too often missing during the spring, when, he admitted, he was a little too often off his game.
Then, he was coming off a freshman season that was one of the best ever by a UW tight end, making 41 catches for 538 yards, as well as a winter spent playing basketball, having walked on to the hoops team in January.
Seferian-Jenkins said he weighed roughly 276 pounds when he showed up for the spring, compared to his listed weight of 258 during the 2011 season. He said the weight gain was intentional to handle his role on the basketball court.
“I just needed a little more girth because I’m 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 and I was playing power forward, center at the Pac-12 level,” he said. “It’s hard to be a slender guy at that thing and I just wanted to have a little more girth to keep pushing people around.”
But that led to being a little slower when he returned to the football field.
“I was pretty heavy and pretty big,” he said.
He’s now down to 260 pounds and says he notices the difference.
“I feel quicker,” he said. “I feel a lot better, and I just feel a lot more healthier.”
Seferian-Jenkins, though, said he also felt a figurative weight on his shoulders in the spring, something he has also shed this fall.
“I am just moving on from the next play,” he said. “In the spring it kind of held me up. I dwelled too much on the last play if I dropped a ball or missed a block or I didn’t do a coverage right or a pass protection right.”
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he’s noticed a difference.
“I think he looks great,” Sarkisian said. “He looks awesome. He’s had a tremendous training camp thus far, and I’ve been proud of his maturing.”
And few players will be as important to the Huskies this season as Seferian-Jenkins. As the Huskies look to replace the production of tailback Chris Polk and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, they will count on young talents like Seferian-Jenkins and sophomore receiver Kasen Williams to shoulder more of the load, especially near the goal line.
Seferian-Jenkins says he’s ready for the challenge.
“I definitely feel like I’m a lot better receiving,” he said. “That really has nothing to do with my weight, but just hard work and chemistry with Keith.”
As for whether he might play basketball again next winter — he appeared in 17 games last season as a reserve — that’s a question for later.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” he said. “I’m just worrying about football and doing the best we can this year and just working hard.”
• UW scrimmaged for more than hour, though only portions featured live tackling. There were five touchdowns, including the Price pass to Seferian-Jenkins.
The others were a Price pass to freshman Kendyl Taylor; passes by redshirt freshman QB Derrick Brown to freshman Jaydon Mickens and redshirt freshman Josh Perkins; and one by freshman Cyler Miles to Evan Hudson.
• As for his overall assessment of the scrimmage and where UW is eight days into camp, Sarkisian said: “We need to improve. Everybody needs to improve. Keith needs to improve. I’ve seen him better than he was today. So everybody has to improve to some degree within the position they are playing at.”