HUNTINGTON, W.Va -- Gator Hoskins came to Marshall University as a high school quarterback turned safety. He's leaving considered one of the top tight ends in college football.
Hoskins has been named one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's best tight end. The senior from Gainesville, Fla., was added to the 2012 watch list last season.
This year, Hoskins leads Conference USA - and all Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends - with nine touchdown catches, a mark that ties him for 10th in the nation among all players. He's snagged 28 passes in all for 455 yards. His 16.25-yards-per-catch average is sixth best in the conference.
He'll try to add to those numbers Saturday when he and the Thundering Herd face Florida International University at 6 p.m. in Miami (Fox College Sports Central).
"I think it just goes to me taking coaching," Hoskins said. "Practicing hard, working hard, learning from the guys before me. I'm thankful right now."
What has impressed Marshall Coach Doc Holliday has been his ability to learn the tight end position from scratch after he came to Marshall. Holliday remarked that Hoskins could be a future coach because of his high football IQ. He also lauded Hoskins' physical growth. The 6-foot-2 Floridian signed with Marshall in 2010 as a 200-pound athlete. Nearly four years later, he's listed at 244 pounds.
"He's an athletic guy for a big-bodied guy," Holliday said. "He can body up against people, go up and make plays. He's good in that red-zone, score-zone area because of what he brings to the table athletically."
The three Mackey finalists will be announced Nov. 25 and the winner named Dec. 11. The other semifinalists are Texas Tech junior Jace Amaro, Indiana senior Ted Bolser, North Carolina junior Eric Ebron, Michigan sophomore Devin Funchess, Notre Dame junior Troy Niklas, Florida State junior Nick O'Leary and Washington junior Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Hoskins is the only tight end among the eight not from a Football Bowl Subdivision automatic qualifier school.