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Tiger QBs will battle it out in camp

Published on -8/7/2012, 10:10 AM

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For the second straight season, Fort Hays State University coach Chris Brown expects a quarterback battle in fall camp.

Unlike 2011, Brown wants a No. 1 quarterback named before the season opener Aug. 30 at Emporia State University.

Fall camp opens at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Lewis Field Stadium.

"I want a starter going into the season," Brown, in his second year, said Monday at the conference media day.

Just like the spring, incumbent Anthony Sheppard and Tarean Austin, a transfer from NCAA Division I University of New Mexico, will compete for the job.

"We are going to let them battle them out and see who can get it," Brown said.

Last fall, Blake McAhren and Sheppard competed all through camp. McAhren was the veteran, while Sheppard arrived shortly before fall camp started. McAhren and Sheppard shared time through the first month before Sheppard became the full-time starter for a team that finished 4-7 overall, 3-6 MIAA.

Sheppard, a transfer from NCAA Division I University of Western Kentucky and Hinds (Miss.) Community College, collected a team-high 1,253 yards of total offense, including 364 rushing and 889 passing.

However, the Tigers finished seventh in the 10-team MIAA in passing efficiency and ninth in passing yards per game. Only Anthony Smith -- who has since graduated -- caught more than 22 passes. Brown believes a stronger passing attack "might improve" a running game that returns many key pieces that averaged 189.2 yards on the ground per game, best since FHSU moved to the MIAA seven years ago.

Redshirt freshman Treveon Albert, an athletic playmaker and the team's No. 3 quarterback in 2011, moved to wideout this spring. He is expected to stay on the outside this fall.

"What we really lacked last year was a passing game," Brown said. "We didn't have a deep threat guy. I think that we have a couple of guys this year that if we need to go deep, then we can go deep."

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Sheppard and the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Austin are different quarterbacks. Sheppard has spent more time in the offense and Brown considers Sheppard more elusive than Austin. As well, Brown said Sheppard -- if he doesn't win the quarterback job -- could play a variety of other positions, including wideout.

"Tarean is pretty good straight ahead," Brown said. "He just needs to work on his elusiveness a little bit more. ... (Austin) is more of your typical pro-style quarterback, where Sheppard is more of your run-style quarterback, but Shepp does a good job with our offense and runs it very well."

Either way, the competition will start again Thursday -- and should end much sooner than last year.

"Give it one guy and let him run with it and let him be our quarterback," Brown said. "If he gets injured or isn't getting it done, then we will go with the other guy."

New rules

Before media day started, Phil Laurie, the MIAA director of officials, went over several new rules. Perhaps the biggest rule change that fans will notice involved touchbacks and kickoffs. Kickoffs will come from the 35-yard line. On touchbacks from kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line, a new rule. On other touchbacks, the ball will be placed at the 20-yard line.

As well, it if a player's helmet comes completely off, other than the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. If the ball carrier's helmet comes off, the ball is dead.

If a player other than the ball carrier loses his helmet, he must not continue to participate in the play beyond the immediate action in which he is engaged, according to NCAA football rules committee. Prolonged participation is a personal foul.

"Ninety-nine percent (of the rule changes) are for the safety of the student-athlete," Laurie said.

Remembering Murdock

Missouri Western State University coach Jerry Partridge recalled a Week 11 contest from the 2011 season between Missouri Western and Fort Hays at St. Joseph, Mo.

Missouri Western won the game 48-21 in then-Tiger coach Kevin Verdugo's last game with Fort Hays.

But the contest is the last game O.J. Murdock caught a pass, a game many former Tigers have recently recalled. Murdock, a former Tiger All-American, died from a reported self-inflicted gun shot wound last week.

Murdock caught 10 passes for 168 yards and a six-yard TD, the last pass FHSU threw that season.

"Great, great speed," Partridge said. "Great hands, very scary. During that time period, coach Verdugo had more than just O.J. There were a lot of kids and then the quarterback (Mike Garrison) played great. That game there, we were really scared about because we needed to win to maybe get into the playoffs."

"We just started off so great. We returned a kickoff for a touchdown, we returned an interception. We were on them so fast. Then, what was scary is Kevin had already resigned, so he was joking around pregame. He says, 'Yeah, we are going to (run) every fake possible.' Really, there is nothing to lose. They threw it all over the lot that day."

"O.J. was just a tremendous talent, and it's really sad, sad that somebody gets to that state in their life that they think they have to do that," Partridge added.

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