By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University football coaches targeted four northwest Kansas kids and didn’t sign any of them. However, helped by a new, partially constructed indoor facility and another win improvement last fall, the Tigers still signed a 24-member class that included players from Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona and Texas.
“Going through it, I thought our coaches did a really good job of finding the kids that we needed in the positions that we needed,” third-year coach Chris Brown said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “We needed some help on the O-line, needed some help on the d-line. We signed five O-linemen and four D-tackles, two defensive ends and I think we have some skill guys behind those guys that are very talented as well.”
FHSU signed three players from the Kansas City area, a place from where the Tigers historically have had few athletes. Brown and assistant coach Zach Watkins each used their connections in K.C. Brown and Watkins came from Washburn University, while Watkins also grew up around Kansas City.
"Those three kids that we got out there are very talented kids,” Brown said.
Brown, a Liberal native, has wanted to reassert FHSU football as a recruiting presence in the area. He has raised plenty of goodwill among area coaches and towns and several players – namely guard Matt Erbert (Ellis), kicker Drew O’Brien (Thomas More Prep-Marian) and tight end Zack Gaughan (Hays High School) already have made impacts.
This season, Fort Hays went after La Crosse’s Kip Keeley, Phillipsburg’s Sean Newlan, Hays High’s David Cardinal and Scott City’s Drew Kite. Cardinal signed with Pittsburg State University and Kite decided to play basketball. Keeley and Newlan signed with Kansas State University. Keeley is a walk-on, while Newlan will have a scholarship, but might grayshirt the 2013 season.
“Some kids want to get out and some of them just want to go live that D1 dream, and some guys have other loves than just football, and they chose that direction,” Brown said. “Who knows what might happen with those kids. Maybe here in a couple of years, we get some of those kids back, and they play for us someday.”
Fort Hays wasn’t the only Division II school to lose players to Kansas State. Helped by KSU’s success and coach Bill Snyder, several of the state’s top athletes decided to walk-on at Kansas State instead of playing Division II.
“With Coach Snyder coming back, with him being such a great coach, kids love him to death, and it is just the way he is with kids and his players,” Brown said. “It’s hard to turn down a walk-on offer if you get one.”
Still, Fort Hays signed plenty of talent, including at quarterback. In Brown’s two seasons, three quarterbacks have started at least four games as FHSU went 4-7 in 2011 and 5-6 last fall. None earned all-conference honors. Two of the quarterbacks have graduated.
The third, Tarean Austin, would have been a senior, but Brown confirmed that Austin has left the program.
“We are going to have some competition, some battles and that is a position that we need to get solidified to really make this program go,” Brown said.
Redshirt freshman Aaron Mispagel was the third-string quarterback last year. Redshirt freshman Treveon Albert was the third-stringer in 2011 before he moved into a multi-purpose role last year and finished with 634 total yards, second-most on the team.
Fort Hays signed freshman Abe Clinch from Kearney, Neb. and Dalton Brewer, a freshman from Blue Springs, Mo., near Kansas City.
“I think it’s open for anybody, whoever gets it,” Brown said. “I feel like it’s a spot right now that we need to find a kid that can take it over and run with it, and be a three-, four-year starter for us, and that’s what we are looking for. We might try to go find a junior college kid just to fill in, just in case those kids aren’t quite ready yet, because they understand the game a little bit more, and have some more game experience.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Clinch finished with 3,680 passing yards, 32 passing TDs, 844 rushing yards and 17 rushing scores at Kearney Catholic.
“It’s funny,” Brown said. “Sometimes kids who live in a town, they are ready to get out of the town. He was probably one of those kids that was ready to get out and we did a good job recruiting him, Coach (Justin) Iske did, and we brought him down on a visit.”
Brown said many of the transfers could step in immediately, including twin brothers Daniel and Nathan Lindsey, each from Eastern Arizona College by way of Inkster, Mich. Lindsey is a sophomore safety, while Nathan is a junior cornerback. Junior defensive tackles Brandon Walther, from Butler County Community College, and Tomasi Molesi, a transfer from Arizona Western Community College, are among the linemen who could play immediately.
“It’s just a position where they was no depth on either side of the ball and something that we really have to build up and get more depth at,” Brown said.
Below is the full list of today's FHSU signings (as of 3 p.m.) provided by the FHSU Athletic Department.
WR/FS, 6'0 185 Fr.-HS
Quapaw, OK. (Quapaw HS)
Notes: Tyler is a standout player on the football field and the basketball court. In football he recorded 2,072 receiving yards, 21 touchdowns, 220 total tackles, 10 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries. Bacon's football honors include 2A-8 offensive player of the year, 3 time All-District, and District 2A-8 wide receiver of the year. He has also earned 2 time All-Conference, defensive player of the year, and 2 time Coca-Cola All-Tournament team in basketball.
QB, 6'2” 205 Fr.-HS
Blue Springs, Mo. (Blue Springs South HS)
Notes: Dalton played high school ball at Blue Springs South High School in Missouri for 2 years. The awards he compiled his senior year include the 810 sports scholar athlete of the week, Sonic Locker Room scholar athlete of the week, Examiner star of the day, and 2nd team All-Conference.
TE, 6'5” 225 Fr.-HS
Belleville, Kan. (Republic County HS)
Notes: As a 2nd team All-League receiver in 2010 and 2012 at Republic County High School, Zach was invited to the Blue and Grey Football Combine. He is also a state qualifier in track raking 4th in the 200 Meter. Zach's father is an FHSU offensive line alum from 1986-87.
DT, 6'2” 285 Fr.-HS
Aurora, CO, (Overland HS)
Notes: Aaron was a two way starter who earned 2nd team All-Conference honors, and was selected to the All-City team while being a honor roll student.
QB, 6'3” 225 Fr.-HS
Kearney, NE. (Kearney Catholic HS)
Notes: In Abe's senior season he passed for 1,677 yards with 16 touchdown and completing 102 out of 171 passes. On the ground, Abe rushed 101 times for 504 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led KCHS to a 10-1 record as a senior and state runner up in 2011. His career stats are an impressive 233 completions with 395 attempts, 3,680 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 181 rushes for 844 yards and 17 touchdowns. Abe was camp MVP at UNK last summer. Clinch's honors include All-State honorable mention, 2nd team All-Hub region, All-District QB, Academic All-State, Passing leader All-Hub (yards per game, completions, total pass yards), honor roll, honor society, FCA President, and President of S.O.D.A. (Students Opposed to Drugs and Alcohol).
OL, 6'4” 285 Fr.-HS
Arp, TX. (Brock Hill HS)
Notes: A multi-year letter winner in football, basketball, and track, Mason had ended his high school senior season with 82 pancakes, 56 tackles, and 4 sacks. Dickey was a 1st team All-State offensive lineman, 2 time 1st team All-District offensive lineman, offensive lineman of the year, and 3 state appearance winning the Texas State Championship his Junior year.
OL, 6'2” 280 Fr.-HS
Maize, KS. (Maize HS)
Notes: Blaise was team captain of the 2012 Maize Eagles. He earned 1st team All-League, All-State honorable mention, and team MVP.
OL, 6'2” 295 Fr.-HS
Golden, CO. (Golden HS)
Notes: Gulley started his High School career as an All-Conference wrestler from his freshman to senior years. In football he earned All-Conference his junior year, and All-State as a senior.
S, 6'1” 210 So.-TR
Tampa, Fla. (Victor Valley College)
Notes: Hill had 43 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble recovery last season at Victor Valley College in California. He earned 2nd team all-conference for the Rams. During Jalen's senior year at Hillsborough High in Tampa FL. he registered 76 total tackles on defense, caught seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Hill ran the ball eight times for 21 yards.
ILB, 6'1” 205 Fr.-HS
Blue Springs, MO. (Blue Springs HS)
Notes: Hobbs had 94 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Rasheed's impressive senior year earned him All-State honors in Missouri. He was defensive player of the week for 4 weeks in the 2012 season. Hobbs helped his team to a Missouri State Championship while becoming 1st team All-Conference in Suburban Big 6, Kansas City Star All-Metro team, and Examiner All-Area team.
ATH, 6'2” 180 Fr.-HS
Manhattan, KS. (Manhattan HS)
Notes: Jacob recorded nearly 1,000 yards passing, 19 total touchdowns, 1 interception, and 1,030 yards rushing as the Manhattan High quarterbacks. Along with the game winning statistics, Holloway was recently named All-League, All-State, All-Flint Hills, student of the month, K-Man student of the week, and Junior athlete of the week. He has also lettered in Track and basketball.
WR/TE 6'5” 200 Fr.-HS
Liberal, KS. (Liberal HS)
Notes: Javonta is an All-Conference wide receiver who had 41 receptions for 579 yards and 6 touchdowns in his senior season at Liberal High School. On defense, J.J. had 20 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries. He also plays basketball where he has been named player of the week twice and competes in track for the redskins.
S, 6'1” 190 So.-TR
Inkster, Mich. (Eastern Arizona College)
Notes: Starting his college career at Eastern Arizona, Daniel had 12 tackles, 10 of them for loss. At Inkster High School Daniel recorded 6 interception, 69 tackles, and 14 pass break-ups as a senior. Daniel was all-state honorable mention, 2nd team region, and all-league 1st team. Among other honors, Daniel was named to the Detroit News All-Metro West second team, Ranked the 29th player in the state by Rivals.com, Made the "Hot 11" at the Rivals.com Midwest Elite Camp, and a two-star recruit and the 158th ranked running back in the country byScout.com.
CB, 6'1” 190 Jr.-TR
Inkster, Mich. (Eastern Arizona College)
Notes: Nathan comes to Fort Hays State from Eastern Arizona where he recorded 12 tackles and 1 interception. Prior to his stint at Arizona, he was a Viking at Inkster High School in Michigan. As a senior Nathan had 2 interceptions, 79 tackles where 13 of them were for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 5 touchdowns, and 342 all-purpose yards. Nathan's honors include being Ranked the 33rd player in the state by Rivals.com, and 28th in the state by scout.com, Two-star recruit and 163rd ranked running back in the country by Scout.com, Made the "Hot 11" at theRivals.com Midwest Elite Camp, All-state honorable mention, all region, and all-league 1st team.
WR 6'5” 190 Fr.-HS
Kansas City, MO. (Center HS)
Notes: Awarded 4 letters in football and 2 in basketball. Isaiah was All-Conference as a Junior, and 1st team All-Conference, All-District, and All-State as a senior. He also averaged 19.6 yards per catch in 2012.
DT, 6'1 310 Jr.-TR
Oceanside, Calif. (Arizona Western Comm. College)
Notes: Played two seasons at Arizona Western. During the 2011 season, Tomasi made 54 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, eight sacks, recovered two fumbles and returned an interception for touchdown... earned second team All-ACCAC and All-Western States honors... had 43 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and a sack as a freshman. At Oceanside High School he was named first team All State, San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year, first team All-CIF, first team All-North County, and Defensive MVP for the Valley League... a Rivals.com 4-star recruit, he originally signed with Oregon State out of high school... also recruited by San Diego State, Texas A&M and BYU.
DE 6'3 225 Fr.-HS
Aurora, CO. (Rangeview HS)
Notes: 3 year starter for Rangeview High, Darnell had 43 tackles, 35 of which were solo, 3 forced fumbles, and 17 QB hurries.
WR 6'4 180 Fr.-HS
Tampa, FL. (Sickles HS)
Notes: Bilal gained over 1,000 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns in his career at Sickles High in Tampa. He gained All-County honors as a wide receiver his senior season.
S, 6'1” 190 Fr.-HS
Edmond, OK. (Edmond North HS)
Notes: Made All-District his senior year and helped his team to a conference and city championship. Dante also runs for the Edmond North track team.
OL 6'4” 290 Fr.-HS
Poteau, OK. (Poteau HS)
Notes: 4A 4 All-District Offensive Lineman with 37 pancakes in his senior season as Pirate at Poteau High School. He was a 3 year starter for Poteau and a 14 Foundation camp MVP in Wister, OK. Shankle is a regional champion and state qualifier in the shot put, and a regional runner up and state qualifier in the discus. Trevor has been on the Principal's Honor Roll for 3 years, and Superintendents his senior year.
CB 6'1” 185 Fr.-HS
Peoria, AZ. (Centennial HS)
Notes: Nate had 27 tackles, 9 pass break ups, and 1 fumble recovery as a corner back at Centennial High School. He was named 2nd team All-Region in football, and region champion in the 110 and 300 hurdles, State Runner-Up and Region Champ in the 4x400m, and placed at state in both the 110 and 300 hurdles.
ILB 6'1” 225 Fr.-HS
Maize, KS. (Maize HS)
Notes: Ethan is a 3 year letterer for Maize High School. He was a 2011 AVCTL honorable mention linebacker, 2012 6A 1st team All-State, 2012 defensive MVP AVCTL division 1, 2012 Wichita Eagle All-Metro linebacker , and has been selected to play in the Kansas Shrine Bowl this summer.
DT 6'0” 305 Fr.-HS
Auroroa, CO. (Rangeview HS)
Notes: Had 39 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries as a Rangeview Pirate in 2012 to earn him All-Conference honors.
RB 6'0” 180 Fr.-HS
Colorado Springs, CO. (Cheyenne Mountain HS)
Notes: With 3500 yards of total offense and averaging 11.8 yards per carry between his junion and senior years, Sulivan is a highly rewarded player. In 2011 James was 1st team All-league, 1st team All-Conference, and All-State honorable mention. His senior year, Sullivan was awarded 1st team All-league RB, 1st team All-Conference RB, All-State honorable mention, 1st team All League WR, and 1st team All-Conference WR.
OL 6'4” 265 Fr.-HS
Colorado Springs, CO. (Liberty HS)
Notes: Team Captain of the Lancers his senior year. Travis was 2 time Liberty lineman of the year, 2 time 1st team All-Conference, 2 time 1st team All-Area/City, and was name All-State in Colorado his Senior year.
DT, 6'3 285 Jr.-TR
Rose Hill, Kan. (Butler Comm. College)
Notes: After becoming an all-state defensive lineman at Rose Hill High School in 2010, Walther went on to assist Butler CC win back to back conference championships. With 23 tackles as a sophomore, Brandon helped the Butler to become the conference leader in scoring defense.
DE 6'4” 245 Fr.-HS
North Platte, Neb. (North Platte HS)
Notes: A 4 year letter winner at North Platte, Luke finished up his high school career as a 2 time All-Conference, 2 time All-Area, All-State honorable mention, 3 time Academic All-State, and 2 time Academic All-Conference football player. Luke also plays basketball where he has been named Academic All-State 2 times as well as Academic All-Conference. Off the field, he is a member of the National Honor Society and has been a Student Council officer for 4 years. Luke will participate in Nebraska Shrine Bowl this summer.