Washington football coach Chris Petersen chuckled during the Pac-12 media teleconference when he was asked if tight end Jacob Kizer has displayed good hands early in his college football career.
Make no mistake. Kizer, a sophomore from West Salem High School, can catch the football and Petersen said “he’s working hard and progressing.”
But the top priority for tight ends at Washington is blocking.
“We want guys to be able to block and be tough,” Petersen said. “That’s the first way to get on the field is to be able to really block at the line of scrimmage.”
Said Kizer: “We take pride in blocking up here in the tight end room.”
Kizer has played in every game this season and contributes on special teams. He saw action in 12 of 13 games as a true freshman in 2017, made three starts including the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State, and had two receptions for 17 yards.
Senior Drew Sample and redshirt freshman Cade Otton have taken the majority of the snaps at tight end this season for the Huskies, but Kizer is “the next guy up if anything happens to those guys,” Petersen said.
He was an all-state defensive end in high school, but didn’t play tight end until his junior year. Due to a back injury, Kizer did not play his senior year at West Salem.
At 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, Kizer has ideal size for the position. He’s still relatively new to the position, but there are no plans for him to return to defense.
“I’m happy at tight end. I’ll do whatever job they ask me to do,” Kizer said. “I’m happy to be here and contribute to the team. It’s about the team.”
The team still has lofty expectations.
Despite last Saturday’s 30-27 overtime loss to Oregon in Eugene, No. 14 Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) is tied for first place in the Pac-12 North with No. 24 Stanford (5-2, 3-1), one-half game ahead of of No. 11 Oregon (5-1, 2-1) and No. 23 Washington State (5-1, 2-1).
Kizer attended Oregon games growing up, but Washington’s visit to Oregon was his first time at Autzen Stadium as a player.
“It was pretty wild. It was loud,” he said.
Washington hosts Colorado (5-1, 2-1) this week.
Kizer had a scholarship offer from Oregon State but was sold on the Huskies as soon as they started recruiting him.
“All the coaches do a great job of recruiting good guys and (having) everyone get to know each other really well,” Kizer said. “There’s nobody in the locker room that I couldn’t go hang out with right now.”
Kizer was part of Washington’s 2016 recruiting class – he was rated as the No. 5 prospect in Oregon by Rivals.com – but elected to grayshirt, delaying his enrollment until January of 2017.
The fall after graduating from West Salem, Kizer helped coach the freshman football team.
“I loved it. It was a completely different perspective,” Kizer said. “I didn’t play the year before, so I missed out on football. It was another way to still be around it. It was as rewarding as playing in different ways.”
West Salem football coach Shawn Stanley said Kizer played a key role in helping the Titans reach the state semifinals in 2015.
“We started using him more for offense and he really blossomed toward the end of his junior year,” Stanley said. “Great player, great kid. I have a lot of great memories of him.”
Kizer has strong ties with his high school alma mater. He stays in touch with the football coaching staff at West Salem, and gets back to Salem when time allows.
In his spare time, Kizer enjoys the outdoors, hiking, and is a “huge movie buff.”
The primary focus this week is getting back on track against Colorado.
“We’re really mad about last week and we’re ready to come back and play great this Saturday,” he said. “We’re ready to show that we’re a great team and we’re just hot and fired up to play.”
[email protected] or Twitter.com/ghorowitz
Position: Sophomore tight end at the University of Washington
Major: Environmental science and resource management
Of note: A graduate of West Salem High School. … Helped lead the Titans to the state semifinals in 2014, named all-state as a defensive lineman. … Also participated in basketball and track and field in high school
Family: Parents, Daniel and Rhonda Kizer; older brother, Benjamin; younger sister, Elizabeth