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Tigers scrimmage today

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

When the Fort Hays State University football team suits up for its first fall scrimmage this morning, the players won't be treating it like another practice. Scrimmages are one of the few times, prior to the season starting, where the coaching staff can have the athletes go full speed with an audience watching, making it the best method to make final decisions on who will suit up come game day.

"Sunday will be a time to show if you can play or not," said junior linebacker Justin McPhail. "It's a great evaluating tool for the coaches. As a player you have to go out whenever we scrimmage and really play well."

Today's scrimmage begins at 9 a.m. at Lewis Field Stadium. It is one of three scheduled scrimmages, the other two set to take place Thursday and Aug. 27. The Tigers will also host a meet and greet from 1 to 2:30 p.m. today at The Mall.

The team's first scrimmage is the final act of the team's first week of fall camp, which began Monday.

"I'm very proud of the guys and the way they have progressed these last four or five days," said FHSU coach Chris Brown. "It's pretty grueling, the schedule that we have, with lifting, meetings and practice and all the things that we do. But they are staying up-tempo; they are staying upbeat. They are very positive with one another. They are working hard."

Of all the position battles taking place, the quarterback position likely will be scrutinized the most throughout the scrimmage. Junior Treveon Albert, the team's returning starter at quarterback, is competing with junior Kevin Spain, a transfer from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College, for the starting spot.

While Albert struggled early last season in the Tigers' 0-4 start -- two losses coming to Top 10 teams -- it was his efficiency and athleticism that helped FHSU win six of its final seven games to finish 6-5. Albert ended the season with a 59.2 percent completion percentage, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was also second on the team in rushing with 507 yards and seven rushing TDs.

Spain, a native of Scottsdale and two-time National Underclassmen Combine MVP, redshirted in 2013 with the Fighting Artichokes.

"Right now we are having Treveon run with the ones. It's going to be his job to lose ... I feel very confident in his ability and the things that he can do. I think he gives a different dimension to our offense," Brown said.

"Spain's done a great job. He is No. 2 right now but he is pushing Treveon every day for that starting spot. He is still trying to understand the offense and what we are doing offensively, but once he gets it, it's going to be a tough decision for us on who is going to start that position."

On the other side of the ball, expect to see a lot of familiar names as the Tigers return nine of 11 starters on defense. While McPhail, along with senior Michael Terry, returns to lead the linebackers, senior Jesse Trent will be anchor on the defensive line and defensive backs Michael Jordan, DeAndre James, Daniel Lindsey and Nathan Lindsey lead a deep secondary.

"In the three years I've been here, this is the most athletic defense I've seen," McPhail said. "I feel like everything is starting to fall into place. Everyone's got experience so that's helped us a lot with camp ... I feel like between our athleticism and our experience, it's going to be a good defense."

FHSU's season begins Thursday, Sept. 4, at home against the University of Central Oklahoma. The Tigers were picked to finish eighth in the preseason MIAA polls.