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Tiger offense looks to continue momentum from 2013

9/3/2014

By NICK McQUEEN

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

In the first four games of the 2013 season, Fort Hays State University quarterback Treveon Albert essentially was thrown to the wolves -- facing the upper-echelon of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The Tigers started 0-4 against four top 25 opponents, and Albert was shaken. Then a sophomore, though, he bounced back to help guide the Tigers to winning six of their final seven games to finish above .500 for the first time in three seasons under head coach Chris Brown -- and the first winning season since 2009.

It's last season's finish that has Albert -- in his second year as the Tigers' opening-day starter -- and the Tiger offense ready to sneak out of the middle of the pack in the conference under fourth-year coordinator Justin Schreiber

"He's grown into being a leader, and understanding our offense as well," Brown said of Albert, who faced a stiff challenge for the team's starting spot from newcomer Kevin Spain during fall camp. "He's able to read coverages now better than he ever has. He's taken it underneath his wing, and feels confident in the things he has done."

While the way Albert and the Tigers finished the 2013 campaign helps back up that confidence, it was the quarterback competition Albert feels helped make him ready to take the field as the offense's general come Thursday's 7 p.m. opener against the University of Central Oklahoma at Lewis Field Stadium.

"It was good competition,"  Albert said. "(Spain) pushed me to a different level. There were some things I wasn't able to do that I picked up from him, and made me better.

"I feel like I got a lot better, and the coaches have told me that. Now, I just have to step out and show it on the field."

The Tigers finished right around seventh or eighth in the MIAA last season in most offensive categories. FHSU was seventh in scoring at 34.9 points per contest, and ninth in passing offense (234.6 per game), seventh in rushing (194.5) and eighth in total offense.

In the brutal stretch to start 2013, FHSU scored just 55 points, but then averaged 45.6 over the final seven games. All the while, Albert left his mark on the program. He bounced back from a dreadful start to finish the season with 2,338 passing yards, 24 TDs (10 interceptions). He completed 170 of 287 passes, and was the Tigers' second-leading rusher with 101 carries for 507 yards and seven scores.

He said this year's group feels the pressure to be better, but at the same time, has enough talent to where it can just go out and have fun.

"It's pressure, but again, it's football," he said. "Go out there, have fun, and put the ball in the end zone. It's pressure when it comes to this first game, but once we get rolling, it's about playing."

The offense will have a bit of a new look in the backfield as well without Andre Smith. Now, senior Edward Smith, a fifth-year Tiger, looks to take control of the Tigers' run game.

"I feel good. Feel like I'm ready to go," said Edward Smith, who was backup to Andre Smith last season. "Time will tell, but I feel good as a whole."

The Tiger running back corps has four guys, Brown said, who can take a workload on any given day, and the receiving unit boasts depth it hasn't had.

"Our skill set at the wide receiver is very, very talented," Brown said. "Our running backs are very talented. We've got four guys we can throw in there at any time if we need to."

Senior Ed Williams is the Tigers' biggest deep threat. He played in just seven games last season, but made 16 receptions for 451 yards (28.2 average) with seven TDs. When FHSU uses three wide receiver sets, its likely sophomore Isaiah Maxi and sophomore Bilal Silat, both of whom saw considerable time as backups last season, will be on the field.

"They don't just sit around and be the second or third receiver," Albert said of the receiving unit. "They push Ed (Williams) every day to try to be the best receiver. That's helping out the receiving corps as a whole."

The offensive line, Brown said, also has had good competition for spots with juniors Luke Edney and Matt Erbert pretty well locked in at the tackles and senior Marshall Musil and junior Zack Gaughan at tight end.

"Our offensive line is pretty solid with the guys we've got" Brown said. "We still have a battle at the guard position. We have seven or eight guys that can play for us any time we want them to."