For the most part, the Fort Hays State University football team got out of the first week of its 2017 camp injury free.
Aside from what seventh-year head coach Chris Brown called a “few pulls here and there,” the Tigers will enter the second week of practice with nearly their full squad still on the field.
And after Saturday’s first scrimmage at Lewis Field Stadium, a few more questions became a little clearer for the coaching staff about which of those guys are going to be where.
“At this point, we know what most of our 1s can do,” Brown said following the team’s final huddle at midfield.
So Saturday’s scrimmage was more about seeing how many of the No. 2s and No. 3s are going to step up and carve out a role as FHSU continues preparations for its Aug. 31 opener.
“Give those 2s and 3s a chance to see if they can play at this level or not,” Brown said.
One of those guys on the field Saturday in a more active role was sophomore wide receiver Andrew Jay. Jay, from La Crosse, made a few catches through the course of the day, and on the No. 1 offense’s first series he was lined up opposite Garden City Community College transfer Monterio Burchfield. Jay has filled in that spot much of the last few days after an early-week injury to Layne Bieberle that has kept the Claflin product out of live action — but not drills.
“Giving it everything I have,” said Jay, who appeared in nine games a season ago. “We’ll see what happens for me.
“I’m just doing as best I can. Right now, don’t know if any role is guaranteed or not. I’m just going out there every day and doing the best I can.”
Jay was part of an offensive unit that struggled on its first drive as it ended with a failed junior Jacob Mezera pass near midfield on third down, a rare drop by senior wideout Tyler Bacon.
The second drive, led by redshirt freshman backup QB Jacoby Williams ended in points, the first of three straight made field goals (41, 40 and 46 yards) by senior kicker Brandon Brown.
“Offensively, we started out kind of slow, but things started moving along, we kind of got the ball rolling,” Coach Brown said. “Defensively, we started very well and did some good things.”
The offense didn’t find the end zone until the fifth drive, this time with mostly 2s and 3s on the field. Williams found senior tight end J.J. Lewis in the end zone on fourth-and-3 from the 5.
It was the first of two scoring hookups between Williams and Lewis for the day. Lewis is one of three tight ends — along with sophomore Matt Wendelberger and junior Drew Kite — vying for time at the position.
“Got three guys that are fighting for that spot, but that’s not a bad thing to have,” Coach Brown said.
Kite, a Scott City product who last season was on the FHSU men’s basketball team, saw significant time Saturday at the position as did Jay at wideout.
“There were a lot of things that we did well today, but there were also a lot of things that we need to improve on,” Jay said, pointing out the wideouts lacked the big-play ball Saturday, but did come through in numerous short-yardage situations.
Jay hopes to play a bigger part in a talented wide receiver unit that includes Bacon, Burchfield, GCCC transfer Harley Hazlett and Bieberle, along with junior Kenton Ubelaker, from Osborne, among many others.
“He did a good job last year as well,” Coach Brown said of Jay. “His route-running has improved and his speed has improved. He’s taking advantage of the opportunities he’s given.”
One thing that appeared to not miss a beat from last season was the run game. Senior Kenneth Iheme, the probable starter, and sophomore utility back Charles Tigner were solid Saturday, along with freshman Molijah Gilbert, junior Elliot Carlson and redshirt freshman Isaiah Blackmon.
On one scoring drive in short field practice, Tigner converted on fourth-and-1, then caught a slant from Mazera for a score. He also converted later on fourth-and-short, setting up Brandon Brown’s fifth successful field goal attempt. He was 5-for-5, and perfect on PATs through the day.
After that, the young guys took the field for some live action, and Coach Brown took the hitting limitations off for the Tiger newcomers.
For now, the Tigers will continue to keep the veterans off the turf as much as possible. FHSU will scrimmage again Saturday to cap Week 2.
“So far, so good,” Brown said of the injury looks. “Hopefully for another couple of weeks, and just stay healthy.”