HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When Marshall tight end Gator Hoskins returned to the practice field this preseason, after missing the spring following shoulder and back surgeries, he wasn't going to be satisfied with just getting his receiving abilities back into top shape.
With his nose for the football, especially in the end zone, it wouldn't take long before he was back at full speed catching passes.
The senior wanted to bring every part of his game to full speed. On top of the more glamorous aspects of the position, he wanted to improve in the grittier categories as well. So Hoskins has pushed through the bumps, bruises and soreness to become a more physical tight end and add another dimension that should help both the Marshall offense and his prospects as a professional football player.
As he recovered from his injuries, Hoskins and tight ends coach Todd Hartley spent the offseason going over his past performances and looking for areas to develop.
"All through the summer, me and Coach Hartley came and watched film," Hoskins said. "We saw that was one of my weaknesses, so all summer, we were going over footwork and he was telling me to be more physical. That's what the team needs, so that's what I've got to do."
Hartley said that, through the first two weeks of preseason camp, it's obvious that the 6-foot-2, 244-pounder out of Gainesville, Fla., is better at the point of attack at the line of scrimmage. That's especially impressive since, because of Hoskins' injuries, the last time he crashed pads against an opponent was November of last year.
"When he has to go up against Jeremiah Taylor and block Jeremiah Taylor and Alex Bazzie, he's done a phenomenal job," Hartley said. "When you come in and watch the film from last year and two years ago, he was OK at that. But he realizes that, if he has any aspirations of going on, they're not going to want him to stand out there and just look pretty like a two-point wide receiver.
"He has to stick his foot in the ground and put his face mask on somebody and he has realized that," Hartley continued. "He's concentrated on that and he's really done a phenomenal job of focusing on his weaknesses this fall camp."