Tiger offense shines in Spring Game
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University senior wide receiver Ed Williams is one of several Tigers who also run track. Three days ago, coach Chris Brown thought Williams would miss Saturday’s Spring Game because of a track meet in Wichita. Instead, Williams decided to leave track alone for the week and focus on football. Williams wanted to be on the same page with the quarterbacks, especially junior starter Treveon Albert.
“The spring game was pretty important to us,” Williams said.
Williams, a big-play threat last fall, caught four touchdown passes in the game at Lewis Field Stadium.
“They want to make the team better,” Albert said. “That’s what we need. Ed Williams is going to be a leader for us this year.”
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tyler Bacon also grabbed two scores and took a big hit, but held onto the ball on a play across the middle. The wideouts led a strong day for the offense on a warm, windless afternoon. Williams had two long catches for scores, scored on a play across the middle and had a leaping catch on a fade route in the corner.
“Our offense really came out and performed at a high level today,” coach Chris Brown said. “They did some good things. Defensively, we strive for three turnovers a practice. I don’t know if we got one today. I just think that we are a little lack of tempo on defense today, but overall, I thought our guys did pretty good on both sides of the ball.”
Last year, Williams missed the first four contests because of a stress fracture, but finished with 16 catches for 451 yards and seven TDs and helped FHSU collect a 6-5 record after a 0-4 start.
Fort Hays graduated its top two wideouts in Keaton Callins and Tanner Hageman, fifth-year seniors who combined for 84 catches and 13 TDs in 2013. Now, Williams is expected to be the No. 1 guy and lead a group of returners that includes sophomores Bilal Silat, Isaiah Maxi and Evan Jennings, senior Garrison Hendricks and Bacon.
“He is my go-to guy,” Albert said.
Albert has continued to improve after he threw for 24 scores and 2,338 yards and rushed for 507 yards and seven TDs in 2013. Callins and Hageman helped Albert on the field last fall, but now Albert is imparting that knowledge.
“Now, I can go tell the young receivers that,” Albert said.
Albert, junior backup Edin Kovac and junior college transfer Kevin Spain each had solid springs; Albert said the competition has made him better. FHSU had added some new plays for Albert after last fall. Brown was pleased with Albert’s work ethic and called the quarterback a “positive role model.”
“They really know our offense now, and when they feel comfortable in our offense, they know exactly where everybody is going to be, and now they are able to just sit back and read a defense,” Brown said. “It makes things a lot easier for them. They are able to do that now. I am very impressed with the way that the spring went for those three guys, and they are going to try to make a tough decision for us. Of course, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
As expected, sophomore running back Josh Beachum received plenty of carries. The 5-foot-7, 185-pound Beachum had 16 carries for 88 yards last year and went 1-on-1 with all-region safety Michael Jordan on one carry.
“He doesn’t have a lot of weight, but he is still a strong kid,” Brown said. “He is not scared to stick his nose in there, and that’s something that I want to see him do more often. You just give him a little seam, he can hit it. He is going to be a back that can give you four or five yards.”
Junior linebacker Justin McPhail, who led FHSU with 90 tackles, was in on multiple plays, especially early on. Senior linebacker Michael Terry had an interception, but the play was called back because of pass interference. Brown wants McPhail and Jordan to be more vocal.
“McPhail has really improved this spring, he has really turned himself into a pretty good linebacker,” Brown said.
Now, the focus turns to the summer. Albert made big strides by staying in Hays last summer and working with his teammates. Brown wants his players to finish the semester strong with As, Bs, and Cs.
“We are not happy with those Ds and Fs,” Brown said. “That’s our main concern.”
Currently, Brown expects to have about 50 Tigers stay in the summer, but would like to increase that number to 60 or 70.
“That’s just something they’ve got to do,” Brown said.
“I wish we could make it mandatory, but you can’t. It’s got to be on them. They’ve got to have their own leadership and get it done.”