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Tiger coach announces recruiting class




Fort Hays State University second-year football coach Chris Brown always wants to sign at least 25 to 30 players for each class.

As well, Brown wants to make sure the Tigers pick up the top players in western Kansas -- something that hasn't frequently happened in recent years. Brown and his staff accomplished both goals when FHSU unveiled a 37-player class on Wednesday's National Signing Day.

"Thirty-seven is a bonus for us, and we are glad we got that many kids," Brown said. "It adds to your team, and every year, you are going to have a few kids drop off. But getting that many kids is exciting for us and showing that there is some interest in Fort Hays State University and those kids are very interested. They are good for us and they are going to work out for us."

The Tigers, 4-7 last fall, picked up 27 high school players and 10 transfers, including junior quarterback Tarean Austin, a transfer from NCAA Division I University of New Mexico.

Fort Hays expects to add a few players in the coming weeks, mainly along the offensive and defensive lines.

"For the most part, I think we got the kids that we wanted," Brown said.

"... As the years go on, we will probably have less transfers than what we had this year. It will be more high school oriented as the years go on, but right now we are still a little short on experience."

Austin made six starts in two seasons for the Lobos and is expected to provide competition for current starter Anthony Sheppard, a senior.

In addition, Fort Hays received multiple players from Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. As usual, ace recruiter Al McCray signed several players from California and Florida, including Austin, a Tampa native.

"Him and others, we are going to have some competition this spring and some competition this fall for positions and that is something we really needed to bring to our team is having competition at positions," Brown said. "We haven't had that in the past. Now, that will make those guys better."

Signing high school players was a big priority for Brown after previous coach Kevin Verdugo mainly focused on transfers. Verdugo's 2009 and '10 signing day classes had a combined 22 high school players.

"At first, they were kind of pulled back, never heard, 'Where is Fort Hays State at?,' Brown said. "We had to build those relationships with those kids and really get them to believe in what we were doing and trust in what we were doing. Just to get back into the high schools was kind of tough. These coaches know that we are going to recruit high school kids again and we are going to get into western Kansas and recruit western Kansas kids and Nebraska kids and Colorado kids."

From the area, FHSU picked up Ellis' tight end/linebacker Jared Herl, Smith Center running back Truitt Kuhlmann, Hays High School's defensive lineman Zach Binder and Stockton's Connor Winters. Herl, an athletic player at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, had received some NCAA Division I looks in the summer, but was injured for parts of his junior and senior seasons. He had committed to Emporia State University before the Tigers signed him late.

"It came down to us and Emporia State and we had a good conversation with him and his parents when we did the home visit and things worked out for us," Brown said. "A very good player and a very good kid. A kid like that, we want to keep close to home and keep him here."

"That's our goal every year," Brown added. "Zach Binder, same thing. Good player and we wanted to keep him close to home and recruit the area kids. If they are out here, they need to be coming to Fort Hays State and not anywhere else."

Fort Hays also collected defensive back Michael Sena and linebacker Justin McPhail from Liberal, Brown's alma mater.

"Here and there, they had other schools looking at them as well," Brown said. "But just talking to them on the phone and building a relationship with those kids and going into the school and seeing them and talking with their coaches, I've got a great relationship with their coaches as well. That helped out. When you talk to the kids and talk to them about Fort Hays State, what we have going on here with the new indoor facility and the program going into a different direction, they get pretty excited."

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