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FHSU preview '13 -- Tiger offense in transition

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Sophomore Treveon Albert showed his quickness and athleticism as a wide receiver and multi-purpose threat for Fort Hays State University in 2012. He collected 581 all-purpose yards, including three games of at least 119 yards. Albert also completed a 53-yard score on his season's only pass. Albert said he carried an "athlete mindset" in his redshirt freshman year.

A fall later, Albert has converted to quarterback, the position FHSU recruited him out of Georgia. Albert was the No. 3 signal caller his redshirt year, before he switched to wideout.

Now, Albert will start as quarterback for the first time since high school. Albert is still expected to make plays, but the mentality is different for the Tigers' fourth starting quarterback in the last three years. Now, he carries a "quarterback mindset."

"There is a lot more thinking rather than just doing," Albert said.

Albert's transition is the biggest of multiple changes for FHSU under third-year offensive coordinator Justin Schreiber. Just two players, senior wideouts Tanner Hageman and Keaton Callins, were starters in those same positions in Week 11 of last year.

Sophomore Jarred Stindt is the lone offensive lineman with any Tiger starting experience and he moved from center to right guard.

Senior running back Andre Smith and junior running back Edward Smith return after putting up big numbers in 2011, but each took a medical redshirt last season. Edward Smith could see the ball in multiple roles; FHSU coaches will look to get the Smiths plenty of touches each game.

"I expect big things out of both us," Edward Smith said. "We are both great backs. We both try to do everything right. We work hard. I expect the best."

Andre Smith was all-MIAA honorable mention as a junior, the lone current FHSU offensive player with accolades.

"We just all have to play together as one," Andre Smith said. "This coaching staff put us in positions that they put us in. We should be pretty good."

Fort Hays has posted 4-7 and 5-6 records in coach Chris Brown's first two seasons behind offenses that averaged 23 points and 348 yards a game last season and 23.2 and 343.8 yards in 2011. Two seasons ago, FHSU ran the ball 62.3 percent of the time. Last year, it was 55.4 percent run; Schreiber wants to be balanced.

Up-tempo offenses is a growing trend in all levels. FHSU ran 64.8 plays per contest in 2011 and 68 last year, third-slowest in the 15-team MIAA. Schreiber looks to play faster this fall.

FHSU used multiple wideouts throughout camp, including Hageman, Callins, junior Ed Williams, freshmen Bilal Salat and Isaiah Maxi, redshirt freshman Evan Jennings and junior Garrison Hendricks. Junior Zack Gaughan, a Hays High School product, and senior Marshall Musil.

Musil, a La Crosse graduate and University of Oklahoma transfer, will likely see plenty of involvement in the passing game at tight end.

Sophomore kicker Drew O'Brien, the Tigers' leading scorer a season ago with 61 points, returns after leading the MIAA among freshmen kickers in field goals made per game.

Up front, senior Mario Abundez took over at right tackle after sophomore Matt Erbert suffered a season-ending knee injury in fall camp. Senior Greg List has emerged as a leader at center.

Schreiber said the line had trouble finding consistency, but made "huge strides" the last week of camp.

"Understand when they need to come off blocks, when they need to come over and help their buddy out, through the course of the year, that is going to make a big difference for us," Schreiber said. "If we can keep those five guys healthy and those five guys continuing to work together, I think offensive line-wise, we are going to be in good shape."

The biggest key, though, is Albert. Helped by the Smiths, Albert won't be expected to carry the load - but is looking to play a high level.

"I expect to be as good as I can be every single day," he said.

With the "quarterback mindset," Albert has spent more time studying. On the field, Albert will have latitude to run and use abilities he had last year, but might have to take a few slides to avoid big hits.

Last year, the top-six MIAA teams in passing efficiency were also the top-six in the standings. In 2011, the top-four in efficiency finished in the top-five in the standings. FHSU has never been better than seventh in total offense, passing offense or passing efficiency with Brown.

"It is a challenge," Schreiber said. "When you are a wide receiver, you are watching a wide view all the time on film. As a quarterback, you have got to see everything.

"It's not only the secondary movements, but you have got to see linebackers shifting, defensive line possibly shifting," he added. "So you have got to spend a lot more time in film study."