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FHSU tight ends among best in MIAA

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Senior Marshall Musil is 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds. Prior to this season for Fort Hays State University, Musil played mainly special teams the last four seasons at NCAA Division I University of Oklahoma. Musil likely fits best as a fullback, a position rarely used at the collegiate level, including FHSU.

Instead, Musil is in his first year of full-time tight end duty at any level. Musil said the position isn't his first choice, but understands it fits him best.

"I don't really see myself doing anything else," Musil said. "I am probably not fast enough to be a running back unless I would lose some weight and then I would be a receiver, and that would be confusing."

Musil and sophomore Zack Gaughan, La Crosse and Hays High School graduates, have become the MIAA's best 1-2 tight-end duo through the first five games.

Last week, Musil led the team with three catches for 47 yards in Fort Hays' 34-17 victory. Gaughan finished second with two catches for 19 yards.

Musil and Gaughan didn't have a reception in the season-opening loss to Emporia State University.

Now, the 6-5, 245-pound Gaughan has 12 catches for 129 yards and a TD, while Musil has seven grabs for 96 yards. The 19 catches ranks second among MIAA tight ends behind Washburn's 22, but the Ichabods have 18 from senior Tore' Hurst.

FHSU is the only team with two tight ends with at least seven receptions. Gaughan is tied for third among tight ends.

"They are both big bodies and big targets," coach Chris Brown said. "They catch the ball very well, and they get yards after the catch."

This week, they could see more touches because senior wideout Tanner Hageman (shoulder) is possibly out with a shoulder injury. Fort Hays (1-4, 0-4 MIAA) travels to Lindenwood (Mo.) University (3-2, 2-2 MIAA). Start time is 1:30 p.m. on Saturday from St. Charles, Mo.

In addition to the receiving, Gaughan and Musil helped FHSU rush for 266 yards last week and clear 364 yards of total offense in three of the last four contests. FHSU has permitted just two sacks, tied for first in the conference. The Tigers have allowed just 1.3 sacks per 100 pass attempts; last season, it was 9.91.

"They do a great job blocking, too, for our backs and getting them in the open space, and if they are going to be wide-open and catch the ball and run as well as they do, we might as well use them," Brown said.

Despite multiple injuries and constant shuffling up front, offensive line coach Justin Iske has done another strong job in his third season. In his first year, the Tigers had the highest yards per carry and best rushing offense in the school's eight-year MIAA era.

"He has got a great relationship with them, and he coaches them pretty hard and tries to get them physical and understanding our offensive line scheme," Brown said. "He does a good job with it."

Even with multiple injuries at running back in 2012, FHSU still averaged a solid 174 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards a carry. This season, the Tigers rank tenth in the 14-team MIAA in rushing offense at 140 yards a game.

Sophomore quarterback Treveon Albert has continually improved. He was 30 of 60 with three TDs and six interceptions and 39 rushing yards in the first two games.

In the last three contests, he is 45 of 78 with two passing TDs, two interceptions and 157 rushing yards with three rushing TDs.

"I think our o-line is doing a good job of understanding the scheme," Brown said. "Our backs are starting to understand our blocking scheme as well, where they are supposed to fit in and where they are supposed to be. Iske has done a good job with them."

While the offensive line is virtually brand-new, Gaughan and Musil had seen little time before this season. Gaughan was the No. 2 tight end in 2012 and caught just one pass. Musil had four offensive touches at OU, including one reception.

Musil likes "seeing everything" on the field and wants to use a two-point stance, but the coaches want him to have a 3-point stance.

"I did it some in the last four years, but not enough where I had somebody working with me on it after practice or something," Musil said. "I was just raw at the beginning of the year. I am feeling more comfortable with my hand on the ground and getting off the ball."

Musil, known for his affable, humorous personality and his ability to evade tacklers since his time at La Crosse, has broke out several moves in the last couple games.

Three weeks ago, Musil vaulted over a Northwest Missouri State University defender. Against William Jewell, Musil made a few other defenders miss.

"Usually gets the best reaction. The first one, at home, I don't even know what I was thinking. The guy wasn't even going at my feet or anything. I wanted to test out the knee, I guess," Musil said, referring to an injury last season.

"No better way than to jump over somebody," he added. "The other guys last (Saturday) were just running too fast. All I have to do to stop, and they will just run right past me."