SEATTLE -- Midway through spring football, something clicked for Kasen Williams.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian saw a change in practice. The coaching staff saw a change on film. The receiver saw a change within himself.
“I want to be the best,” said Williams, a sophomore. “That’s what we’re all out here for, to be the best. If I’m not getting better every day, there’s no way I can accomplish that.”
Prior to Williams’ senior high school season in 2010, he joined tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as the two top prospects coming out of Washington. They both held highly publicized press conferences to announce their decisions. They were two hometown heroes headed to Husky Stadium to lead the Huskies’ rebuilding effort.
“Coach Sark (Steve Sarkisian), and the players there, it's going to be a national championship soon,” Seferian-Jenkins said the day he committed. “I want to be a part of that, that hometown guy, that local guy to help bring them back up. I think I can do that. I know I can do it. We're going to do it.”
They arrived on campus as tremendous talents who were expected to exceed expectations.
As freshmen, they both had their moments.
Williams caught 36 passes for 427 yards and six touchdowns and will be remembered for hurdling Washington State cornerback Nolan Washington in the Apple Cup.
Seferian-Jenkins finished the year with 41 catches for 538 yards and six touchdowns.
But as productive as they were as freshmen -- Seferian-Jenkins’ receiving yardage ranked No. 2 all-time for a freshman at Washington -- the Huskies need the proven playmakers to take the next step as sophomores. They need to fill the void left by the graduation of Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar and the absence of senior James Johnson, who is recovering from a wrist injury.
“I feel like it’s definitely necessary to take this team where we want to go,” Williams said. “We have a lot of offensive weapons. I want to be the main offensive weapon. If we want to keep going as a team, we’re going to need all 11 of us. If I’m at the top of my game, they’re all going to follow in my footsteps.”
Seferian-Jenkins added, “This year I’m taking the next step by working hard, harder than I’ve ever worked before. Being smart, taking care of my body when I feel that needs to be taken care of, just getting better chemistry with Keith, understanding the playbook.”
After working through seasons that were as productive as they were humbling, Williams and Seferian-Jenkins have made plays throughout the first two weeks of practice.
Before fall camp started, Sarkisian called the 2012 season a “unique time” for the receiver and tight end. He wanted to see if they would embrace the challenge of being the primary targets for quarterback Keith Price.
So far, Sarkisian likes what he has seen.
“He’s been really strong,” he said when asked about Williams. “He’s been physical. He’s been confident. He really knows what he’s doing, so he’s doing it confidently.”
When asked about Seferian-Jenkins, Sarkisian added, “Austin, he’s committed himself to it. He’s matured since last season and, obviously, spring. The work ethic, the willingness to block, the playing with better effort when the ball is not coming his way, all of that has improved. And he’s still making plays on the ball when we’re throwing it to him.”
Seferian-Jenkins considers his success so far a first step. He sees what he has accomplished. He knows what he wants to achieve in the future. He understands what it takes to reach that point.
Now, like Williams, it is time to take the next step.
“I’ve taken baby steps and I feel like I’m just starting to crawl,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’m excited to start running.”