The 2013 West Liberty University football roster is dotted with no less than 18 players with ties to the Ohio Valley, including seven from eastern Ohio.
Veteran head coach Roger Waialae and his Hilltoppers open the season Saturday at Catawba, N.C.
Several of the Ohio Valley products could see considerable playing time come Saturday, according to Waialae.
Tops on the list is preseason All-American nose guard Nate Maleski, of Bridgeport, who was featured several weeks ago in this space.
Other OV players from eastern Ohio are Marcus Schumacher (Monroe Central), Dylan Potts (River, Akron University), Corey Ernest (St. Clairsville), Cole Stephen (St. Clairsville), Garrett Price (Bridgeport) and Korey Lafferre (Monroe Central). West Virginia products include Kane Boroski (Linsly), Alec Wood (Wheeling Park), Josh Wilson (Wheeling Central), Griff Yocum (John Marshall), Robert Jones (Wheeling Park), Daree Goodwin (Wheeling Park), Mike Berardi (John Marshall), Aaron Fonner (John Marshall), Sam Robinson (John Marshall), Jordan Bonar (Bishop Donahue) and Derek Rovira (Weir).
Waialae took some time out recently about each player with Ohio Valley roots.
"We've got some pretty good players from the valley," he said. "We recruit the valley really hard because there are some good players here."
One position that Waialae was really high on in spring camp was wide receiver.
"We needed playmakers," the veteran head coach noted. "In order for our offense to function at a high level, we have to be able to attack the defense down the field and we need to make plays after the catch.
"I think we've raised the talent level significantly with the players we brought in. Now, it's just a matter of getting them comfortable enough with the system to let that talent take over on the field."
One of those he was speaking about is Potts (6-1, 185), who spent his first two seasons at Akron before transferring to the hilltop.
"Dylan has shown a lot of flash," Waialae admitted. "But it all comes back to consistency. He's explosive. He's one of those guys that can go the distance any time he touches the ball. He's part of our improvement at wide receiver that has even made our quarterbacks better."
Another wideout that saw time last year is Goodwin (6-3, 225), who played basketball for the Patriots, but not football.
"He's got an unbelievable skills," Waialae allowed. "He's an athletic, big kid who can run and jump. If he can continue on the same track that he was on in the spring, you're going to see some big things from him."
Another true freshman, Bonar (6-1, 215) has looked good in camp, according to reports.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Waialae raved about the training camp that Ernest (6-2, 270) had.
"He has a chance to start right now," Waialae said. "We're not sure whether he's going to be a guard or tackle, but he is definitely battling for a starting spot."
Also in the mix for a spot on the right side is redshirt freshman Berardi (6-4, 280).
"We're definitely ahead of where we were at this time a year ago," the coach admitted. "We have more options and more players competing. We don't play the five best linemen, we play the five linemen who play together the best."
Fonner (5-11, 195), who came over from the WLU baseball team. Due to the year off from football, he has some work to do, but his coach likes what he sees.
"He has a really strong arm, but we're still working some of the baseball out of his mechanics," Waialae said. "He's shown the ability to make plays, however, and that's what we're looking at from that position."
He will likely start the season No. 4 on the depth chart behind Dylan Lagarde, Tyler Tucci and Dan Leonard.
Jones (5-11, 215) is in the mix at H-back.
Lafferre (5-11, 170) will redshirt this season. He was listed as a wide receiver.
On defense, Schumacher (6-1, 210), a redshirt sophomore, is fighting for playing time at inside linebacker.
"Marcus has a chance to start for us," Waialae revealed. "He's in a competition with four other guys, but he's done a very good job. He will definitely see time on special teams."
Rovira (6-1, 240) is a defensive end who lettered last season.
Robinson (6-5, 250) is also competing at defensive end.
Wood (6-0, 215) is back after redshirting a year ago after suffering an injury, is penciled in at one starting inside 'backer spot.
In addition to Schumacher, Stephen (6-2, 215) opened some eyes during training camp, according to Waialae.
"We're excited about Cole. He's in the battle for playing time, but, in all honesty, I'd like to redshirt him and get him bigger," Waialae explained. "But, if his number is called, then it's his turn."
Waialae said there are four or five players battling on the inside.
Boroski (6-4, 195) is competing for playing time at strong safety where the Hilltoppers seem to be the deepest.He will also see time on special teams.
Speaking of special teams, Yocum (6-0, 185) has been the Hilltoppers punter for the past two seasons.
Wilson (5-10, 165), a Martins Ferry native, underwent surgery on his kicking knee. He is competing with three others.
Another player on the roster, but not able to compete is Price, the former all-stater at Bridgeport.
He saw action in three games last season at cornerback, making one tackle and assisting on two others before dislocating a hip.
"Garrett won't be playing this season," Waialae explained.
"He will remain in school and hopefully he'll be back in the spring. They didn't perform surgery, but he's still having some problems with it."
Former Martins Ferry standout Marco Ricchetti was poised for a big senior season after winning all kind of accolades last fall. However, he will sit out the entire season with a redshirt.
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