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FHSU set for Spring Game

By CONOR NICHOLL
cnicholl@dailynews.net
Ike Eguae’s booming voice perpetually rang across Lewis Field Stadium throughout Fort Hays State University’s spring practice Thursday afternoon. Eguae, the new defensive line coach, replaced Zach Watkins, who headed back to Washburn University.
Eguae, who joined FHSU in early February, continued his passion and intensity after practice when he led certain Tigers throughout conditioning drills. He yelled instructions with a continued passion arguably not seen in FHSU’s four-year Chris Brown era.
Eguae came to Fort Hays after coaching and playing at Pittsburg State and also spending a stint at Coffeyville Community College.
“Very energetic, very entertaining,” Brown said after Thursday’s practice. “Very demanding, strives for perfection, but I like the intensity, the excitement. That really brings something else to our defense. That’s something that I feel like we have lacked the last few years is just that guy with a lot of excitement, and a lot of energy, and he brings that to us.”
His presence was one of several changes for the Tigers in a spring season that concludes with the annual Spring Game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium. The public is welcome to attend.
This is the third and final scrimmage of the spring. Five players, including running back Kenneth Iheme, speedy wideout Ed Williams and all-MIAA kick returner DeAndre James, will miss the game because of a FHSU track meet. The scrimmage is expected to have certain situational plays, including red zone and going from specific yard markers.
“It’s not going to be a true spring game, but you will get a good idea of what our kids are doing,” Brown said.
Starting offensive lineman Matt Erbert, an Ellis High School product, has not participated in spring practice after he missed all of last fall because of a knee injury suffered in the preseason. Wideout Garrett Holle (meniscus) was also out Thursday.
“Matt Erbert, he is cleared,” Brown said. “But I am trying to be safe. I don’t want to do anything stupid this spring and have him have a chance of getting reinjured, so until that knee is 100 percent in my mind, I am going to hold him out.”
FHSU had a different spring schedule this year. The first week came before spring break, then Fort Hays took the week off before going the last two weeks. Normally, Fort Hays does all of spring practice after Spring Break.
“We just kind of introduced them before spring break,” Brown said. “They came back after spring break just kind of learning. I feel like the last two weeks our kids have really excelled and gotten better of learning our offense and learning our defense and running it the right way it’s supposed to be.
“Our first scrimmage wasn’t very good,” he added. “We had a lot of false starts, a lot of mental assignments, mental busts on offense and defense. Our second scrimmage was much cleaner. I saw the football that these guys can play, and they did a good job.”
At running back, Ed Smith is the senior member after splitting time with Andre Smith the last three years and James Walker and Ricky Jacques as a true freshman. The lone Tiger remaining who started his career before Brown came, Smith has on a bigger role. He still talks with Andre Smith, who is back in California, several times a week. Smith has played with the second string, but that’s mainly so Brown can see some other players get more reps.
“I am more of a leader now,” Smith said. “Even though I have been running with the 2s now, I still lead those guys. When they come off, I still congratulate them, I still let them know that I am here to be a leader.”
Quarterback Treveon Albert returns after he first inherited the job last spring.
A year ago, Albert had to move back to quarterback from wideout because FHSU didn’t have any other signal-callers. Now, he is the solidified starter after leading the Tigers to a 6-5 record and having one of the greatest statistical seasons ever by a Fort Hays quarterback.
“He knows the offense better,” Brown said. “He is being able to read the defense a lot better than what he has before, and he is feeling more comfortable, and I think that is the main thing as a quarterback. You know everything, and you are confident in your abilities, and you become comfortable and start making plays that you need to make.”