SEATTLE — Utah faces a tall task in defending Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The 6-foot-6, 266-pound sophomore, who also plays college basketball, is the nation's top receiving tight end with 48 receptions.
In last week's 21-13 win at California, Seferian-Jenkins had a career-best 152 yards on eight catches.
"He's a tremendous receiving tight end," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "No one has really had a great answer for him."
Whittingham added that Seferian-Jenkins has a great knack — even when he's not open — of incorporating his basketball skills by going up and catching the ball in traffic. The Utes hope defenders like 6-foot-5 linebacker Trevor Reilly or 6-foot-2 safety Brian Blechen will provide quallity matchups.
Seferian-Jenkins has already broken or tied several Washington records for tight ends. His 1,168 career receiving yards rank first after just 22 games.
"He's a guy that is a major concern for us," Whittingham added.
Reilly, who tops Utah with 50 tackles, said it'll be a fun matchup for the defense. He compared Seferian-Jenkins to UCLA's 6-foot-7 tight end, Joseph Fauria, who didn't score against the Utes.
"We usually do pretty well against tight ends," he said. "Hopefully we can keep that going."
Blechen is also looking forward to the challenge of keeping Seferian-Jenkins in check. Most tight ends, Blechen explained, can't make the spectacular receiver-like catches that he can make. Seferian-Jenkins is averaging 13.1 yards per reception and has scored four touchdowns.
"He's a beast, a phenomenal athlete, a competitor and he's tough," Blechen said. "He's someone that we have to, as much as we can, limit the big plays he's capable of making."
Washington has other weapons as well. Sophomore receiver Kasen Williams has a team-high 49 catches, including 10 in the Huskies' 17-13 win over Stanford on Sept. 27. Junior quarterback Keith Price (1,765 yards passing) and sophomore tailback Bishop Sankey (855 yards rushing) are among others to watch.
On defense, the Huskies have four players with 51 or more tackles — junior safety Sean Parker, sophomore linebacker John Timu, senior safety Justin Glenn and freshman nickelback Shaq Thompson. Freshman Marcus Peters and senior Desmond Trufant are talented cornerbacks.
Washington (5-4 overall, 3-3 in Pac-12 play) is 24-23 under head coach Steve Sarkisian. The former BYU quarterback is his in his fourth season at the helm of a program that went 0-12 the year before his arrival. The Huskies are one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the third straight season.
"I have a lot of respect for what they're doing up there," Whittingham said. "It's a work in progress, just like everybody."
Utes on the air
Utah (4-5, 2-4) at Washington (5-4, 3-3)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. (MT)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700