WEST LIBERTY - West Liberty football coach Roger Waialae and his staff have added a dozen new faces to the roster in preparation for the start of spring practice on March 22.
''The rule changes moving the start of fall practice back to the middle of August have made spring football even more important from a teaching and preparation standpoint,'' Waialae said. ''In those areas on the roster where we were looking at transfers, we made it a recruiting priority to get them on campus and taking classes in time to participate in spring practice.''
Four of the 12 mid-year transfers are receivers but there's a pretty wide distribution among the other positions. Along with two offensive linemen and a pair of linebackers, the list includes a quarterback, running back, H-back and a defensive lineman.
The Hilltoppers began receiving NCAA Division II letters of intent from high school recruits Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA signing period. The coaching staff will continue to recruit throughout the signing period, which runs through April 1, and will announce its final list of 2013 newcomers once all necessary paperwork has been completed.
West Liberty is looking to build off the momentum of last year's 6-5 campaign, which included victories against regionally ranked Shepherd and North Carolina-Pembroke. It was the seventh winning season in eight years under Waialae.
The Hilltoppers kick off the 2013 season with a Sept. 7 trip to Salisbury, N.C. to take on Catawba University. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Following are capsules on West Liberty's 12 mid-year transfers, listed in alphabetical order:
OL Eric Burhop, 6-5, 315, Southwestern CC (San Diego, Calif.)
First-team SCFA All-American Conference Mountain Division offensive guard on Southwestern CC team that defeated Santa Monica, 45-31, in 2012 American Championship Bowl. All-American Conference Offensive Player of the Week (10/18/12). Teamed with fellow Hilltopper signee Michael Chance to lead Southwestern to 10-1 season. Multi-sport standout at San Bernardino (Calif.) Beaumount HS.
WR LeVaughnte Calhoun, 6-4, 185, Rochester Comm. & Tech. (Indian Head, Md.)
Fast-rising prospect caught 16 passes in two seasons at Rochester (Minn.) Community and Technical College. ...Late bloomer, did not play football in high school. ...Outstanding student, named to Dean's List twice during time at Rochester C&T. ...Graduate of Friendly (Md.) HS.
OL Michael Chance, 6-0, 285, Southwestern CC (San Diego, Calif.)
Two-year starter on offensive line for All-American Conference Mountain Division Coach of the Year Ed Carberry at Southwestern CC. Teamed with fellow Hilltopper signee Eric Burhop to form one of the top offensive lines in the conference. High school standout at Mission Bay HS in San Diego.
WR Donald Drisdom, 6-1, 190, West Los Angeles CC (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Second-team All-SCSA American Division wide receiver at West L.A. last fall. Led the team with 29 catches for 778 yards and 9 TDs. Ranked 15th in California juco ranks in receiving yards and tied for 16th in TD catches. Season-high 125-yard receiving game vs. Santa Monica College. Season-long 85-yard TD catch vs. Citrus College. Originally signed with Prairie View A&M.
LB Holman Fa'atili, 5-11, 240, Central Washington University (Bellingham, Wash.)
Played in 2 games with 1 start at middle linebacker for Central Washington last year. ...Finished with 20 tackles, including game-high 11 stops in 21-14 overtime win at Western Oregon (Sept. 15). ...Teammate of fellow WLU linebacker recruit Jede Fue at Long Beach CC before transferring to Central Washington. Leading tackler on 2011 Long Beach CC squad. ...First-team 2011 SCFA All-Central West Conference. ...SCFA All-Central West Conference Player of the Week (Nov. 14, 2011) following career-high 18-tackle game. ...Football/track standout at Bellingham (Wash.) HS.
LB Jede Fue, 6-0, 220, Long Beach CC (Long Beach, Calif.)
Two-year regular at linebacker for Long Beach CC. Team's second-leading tackler in 2012 with 60 stops despite missing 2 games due to injury. Also charted with 3 tackles-for-loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Juco teammate of fellow WLU newcomer Holman Fa'atili in 2011. Earned All-League honors with 126 tackles as a senior at Long Beach (Calif.) Woodrow Wilson HS.
QB Jerimy Mask, 6-1, 180, Hargrave M.A. (Richmond, Va.)
Versatile athlete prepped at Hargrave MA last fall with fellow West Liberty signees Devone Penick and Josh Wilcher. Led Hargrave to its biggest victory of the year, a 12-10 win against arch rival Fork Union MA. Passed for 112 yards and passed for 63 more, including 2 TD passes in the final 4 minutes to rally the team to the win. Also saw time at running back and wide receiver. Multi-sport standout at Richmond (Va.) Henrico HS.
WR Roosevelt Morriset, 6-6, 195, Southeastern Louisiana University (Miami, Fla.)
Rangy wide receiver is transferring to West Liberty after a short stint at Southeastern Louisiana. Ranked as the No. 24 junior college WR by Rivals.com after breakout sophomore year at Northland (Minn.) CC the same juco that produced 2009 WLU All-American Kashif Walls. Speedy deep threat had 50 catches for 707 yards and 10 TDs to help Northland to a 7-4 season. Teamed with fellow WLU newcomer LeVaughnte Calhoun at Rochester C&T. Multi-sport standout at Miami (Fla.) Edison HS.
RB Devone Penick, 6-0, 190, Hargrave M.A. (Pickerington, Ohio)
Speedy tailback prepped at Hargrave MA last fall with fellow West Liberty signees Jerimy Mask and Josh Wilcher. Part of tag-team tailback tandem that rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and 20+ TDs on a Pickerington Central football team that lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius in 2011 Ohio Division I state championship game. Ran 10.8-second leg as a sophomore on Pickerington Central track team's 4x100 relay team as a sophomore.
WR Dylan Potts, 6-2, 185, Akron University (Sardis, Ohio)
Transfer from Akron, missed most of 2012 season with the Zips due to injury. ...Gifted athlete played 2 games at quarterback as a true freshman in 2010. ...Switched to wide receiver in 2011 and played in all 12 games with 1 start. ...Had 2 catches for 22 yards and threw a 41-yard pass out of the wildcat formation against Central Michigan. ...Also excelled on special teams. ...All-Ohio, All-District, All-Valley and All-OVAC quarterback at River (Ohio) High School.
H-Back R.J. Thomas, 6-3, 235, California (Pa.) University (Greensburg, Pa.)
Played in 24 games with 7 starts in three years with the Vulcans. Suffered season-ending injury in second game of 2011 season and has applied for medical redshirt that would give him 2 years of eligibility with the Hilltoppers. Caught 19 passes for 212 yards and 3 TDs at California. Career-high 5 catches for 82 yards, including 54-yard grab, vs. Edinboro last season. Also had 20-yard TD catch vs. Indiana (Pa.). 2011 Athletic Director's Honor Roll. Named to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's "Fabulous 22" as a senior at Hempfield Area H.S. in Greensburg.
DL Josh Wilcher, 6-4, 290, Hargrave M.A. (Dumfries, Va.)
Physical defensive lineman prepped at Hargrave MA last fall with fellow WLU recruits Jerimy Mask and Devone Penick. Starred at Colorado Springs (Colo.) Liberty HS before transferring to Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton HS for senior season. Two-way lineman helped lead Hylton to second straight 11-1 season.