Tigers wrap up spring schedule
By CONOR NICHOLL
Overall, the Fort Hays State University football team put together a strong spring and was farther along than when the spring season concluded last year.
However, after Saturday's spring game at Lewis Field Stadium, second-year coach Chris Brown said the Tigers still had plenty of work left before the fall. Fort Hays went 4-7 overall, 3-6 MIAA in 2011. The program has recorded one winning season and no winning records in conference play since it moved to the MIAA six seasons ago.
"This summer is going to be huge for us and what these kids do," he said. "That's what I tried to stress to them right now after this scrimmage. This summer is going to make or break our season. If you are here working out, we are really going to have some success.
"If you are not, then we are going to kind of be like what we have always been. Hopefully that will hit home a little bit and they want to be successful and they are here this summer," he added.
Cordon coming on
Senior Eli Cordon, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, didn't participate in spring practice last year and was behind in the 2011 season.
"I wish we could have got him last spring going into that fall season of last year when he really could have picked up our offense and that was something he struggled with in the fall," Brown said.
Cordon played in 10 games with one start, but had no catches. His lone offensive yards came on an 11-yard kickoff return in Week 2 against Truman State (Mo.) University. This spring, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Cordon produced multiple big plays in scrimmages, including a 29-yard TD catch Saturday.
After tight end Chase Leake -- the team's second-leading receiver in 2011 -- graduated, Cordon should see plenty of time in the fall. Senior Grant Brown, a starter last fall, Cordon and redshirt freshman Zack Gaughan are in the mix at tight end.
"Now, he has got it down, he knows exactly what he is doing and he has become a force to be reckoned with," Brown said. "You get him the ball, he is tough to bring down. He catches the ball very well, runs great routes and can block up front and that's what you need out of a tight end."
Callins hopeful with wideouts
Junior Keaton Callins was a former quarterback in high school and at FHSU before he switched to wide receiver last season. Callins isn't the prototypical size for a wideout at 6-foot, 195 pounds, but caught 20 passes for 263 yards and three scores last fall. All three numbers ranked third-best on the team and tops among returners.
"You have to be more elusive out there, getting off the press, sliding underneath the running backs and just finding the holes in the zones for the defense," he said. "I think I am progressing very well in that."
Callins had several nice catches in the spring, including a sideline reception Saturday.
"Coach (Al) McCray always says, 'When the ball is in the air, go get it,' " Callins said. "That's my mentality - just go get it. Playing quarterback through high school and my first year up here and then come to receiver, I like the ball in my hands. When I get that chance, I just want the ball in my hands."
The receiving corps lose Leake and Anthony Smith, the team's leading receiver with 40 catches for 489 yards and five touchdowns, but do return Callins, Brown, senior Cornelius Gallon (19 catches in '11), junior Tanner Hageman (12 catches in '11) and brought in junior transfer Treyvius Alexander from Hinds (Miss.) Community College.
Gallon collected three catches for 59 yards and a score, while Alexander tacked on four catches for 52 yards and a TD Saturday.
"We can step up and have a better season than we did last year," Callins said.
In the spring game, junior Caleb Crocker picked up nine tackles, senior Basil Bandy had two sacks, senior Layton Hickel had a forced fumble and senior Austin Hubert had an interception. ... Brown said the Tigers may add some more players in the spring and summer, notably on the offensive line, defensive line; especially a speed rusher at the defensive end; and possibly at linebacker and receiver.