Washington-Stanford Will Be a Battle of Tight Ends (In a Purely Non-Sexual Way)
Let’s take a look at the diving catch Husky Austin Sefarian-Jenkins made on Saturday, shall we? It’s here at the 2:10 mark. In case you’re too lazy to click, what happens is, Sefarian-Jenkins makes a full-body-length dive, parallel to the ground, to catch a Keith Price pass.
If Sefarian-Jenkins were an NFL wide receiver, this would be a great catch. If Sefarian-Jenkins were a college wide receiver, this would be an amazing catch. Sefarian-Jenkins is a tight end. A true freshman tight end.
While Price is a much better passer than Jake Locker, the biggest improvement in the Husky offense has been at the tight end position. Husky tight ends had just six catches all of last season. Sefarian-Jenkins already has four touchdowns.
When the Huskies face Stanford on Saturday, Sefarian-Jenkins won’t be the only talented tight end on the field. The Cardinal have three of them. Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Levine Toiolo have combined for 34 receptions, 12 of them for touchdowns. There are 70 FBS teams with fewer touchdown catches than Stanford’s tight ends.
Fleener is the deep threat, averaging 23.9 yards per catch. “That Fleener can run, man,” Steve Sarkisian told the media yesterday. “It’s not just linebackers. They are throwing seam routes and go routes and corner routes on defensive backs, and they make plays.”
At 6-foot-6, 254 pounds, Fleener will be enough of a mismatch against the Huskies’ undersized young outside linebackers: Princeton Fuimaono (6-1, 215), Jamaal Kearse (6-2, 224) and John Timo (6-1, 220). When lined up against the Huskies’ even smaller cornerbacks, he’ll have at least a six-inch height advantage. The last hulking receiver UW had to deal with–Eastern’s Brandon Kaufman–scorched the Dawgs for ten catches and 140 yards. Fleener is bigger and probably more talented.
Though he’s as tall as Fleener at 6-6, 258, Sefarian-Jenkins won’t have as easy a time of it, at least on paper. Stanford’s outside linebackers are close to his size: Trent Murphy (6-6, 260), and Chase Thomas (6-4, 240). Sefarian-Jenkins may get some comfort in the fact that UCLA TE Nelson Rosario had eight catches against Stanford earlier this month.
Very rare is the football game that you’d say will come down to how the tight ends perform. But for this matchup–the first time since 2003 that the Huskies are in a game where both teams are ranked in the top 25–the stats of the tight ends will probably tell the story of the game.