The final score of the Alamo Bowl was 67-56 when the Huskies lost to Baylor in Robert Griffin III’s college swansong.
Heisman pundits and draftniks alike know all about Keith Price, the Huskies quarterback that accounted for seven touchdowns in that game and set UW single-season records for touchdown passes (33) and completion percentage (66.9 percent) in his first season as a starter.
Yes, Price seems destined for the pantheon of Huskies greatness. However, rising sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins shows that the Huskies have not one, but two superstars in the making on offense (possibly three with wideout Kasen Williams).
Price will be among the nation’s top play-callers, but Jenkins has the chance to be peerless at the tight end spot in 2012.
At a school that has produced tight ends like Mark Bruener and Ernie Conwell, the rising sophomore won the genetic lottery with his physical build and has the talent and dominance to be the school’s best ever at the position, even if he leaves to be a likely first-round pick after his junior year.
A 5-star recruit from the Seattle suburb of Gig Harbor, Seferian-Jenkins played in every game as a true freshman. Heck, he even played in 17 games for the Huskies’ 24-win basketball squad.
Starting 10 of UW’s 13 games, ASJ had 41 catches for 538 yards and six touchdowns. While the stats don’t raise too many eyebrows initially, ASJ accumulated the third-highest single-season yards total for a Huskies tight end and is already tied for fourth all-time for career touchdowns at the spot.
Oh, and he was playing as a true tight end under an unheralded and first-time starter at quarterback after Jake Locker’s graduation.
So maybe Price turned out to be a tad better than most quarterbacks that have to take over for top-10 draft picks. But ASJ had to wait in line when it came to hearing his number called. Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, both among the Huskies’ top 10 in career receiving yards, are gone, as is star running back and receiving threat Chris Polk.
UW’s offense is a pro-style set that will adjust to incorporate the speed of Price and does not shy away from the tight end. ASJ will be Price’s favorite target all across the field and will have the offense adjust for him as well.
Last year, the Huskies moved to the slot or even to wide receivers on occasion, and will continue to do so in an attempt to creatively shed double-teams as well as create even greater mismatches. He even—wait for it—blocks in the running game at a high level.
Now, ASJ is ready to make opposing linebackers look like Lilliputians trying to stop him. At 6’6” and 258 pounds, he has the perfect size to truck over opponents and the height to swallow passes across the middle.
A Freshman All-American and honorable mention All-Pac-12 choice in 2011, ASJ is (unsurprisingly) on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top tight end.
Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham. You all know the names of former hoopsters-turned-tight end standouts. Being on the basketball team will be tough, but executing play sets could serve as training ground for the mindset of mastering routes, while he will be sure to improve upon his hand-eye coordination playing hoops as well.
If basketball can better help him control his frame, then ASJ will be even scarier in his ability to combine agility and size at the tight end spot.
Washington's all-time receiving touchdowns record of 30 is well within reach, especially if ASJ stays through his senior year. We all love to see gaudy passing numbers, and the biggest benefactor to ASJ shattering UW and Pac-12 records could be the Huskies defense.
The Huskies have a plan for improvement under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but installing his scheme will require a transition period. A porous defense is a bad recipe for winning games, will result in the Huskies airing the ball out constantly to keep up on the scoreboard in 2012.
Huskies faithful all knew they landed a big fish at Montlake as one of then-new coach Steve Sarkisian’s biggest signing splashes. ASJ has all the tools in order to join Steve Emtman, Greg Lewis and others on the Huskies’ Mount Rushmore of gridiron greats.
Price will garner the headlines and national love for now, but ASJ has a much greater chance to become unrivaled at his position and hear his name called as a first-round pick after concluding a memorable Huskies career.