Derrick Rovira is returning as a Sophmore to the West Liberty Hilltoppers contending for a starting defensive position...the team is strong having a national ranking and first in their region.
Article courtesy of the West Liberty University website: http://www.hilltoppersports.com/
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – Coming off a Top 10 national ranking and a trip to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs, West Liberty head football coach Roger Waialae likes what he’s seen from his veteran Hilltopper squad heading into the final week of preseason drills.
“We have 27 seniors back and that’s really enabled us to get a lot done,” Waialae said. “We’re to the point now where most of our players have been here for a while so we’re not starting from scratch. We’ve added a few tweaks to keep things fresh but our main goals were to fine tune what we think we do well and shore up the areas we needed to improve.”
West Liberty led the nation in scoring and total offense a year ago and has just about everybody back from the first offense in college football history to feature a 4,500-yard passer, a 1,500-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers.
All-American junior quarterback Zach Amedro, runnerup for the Harlon Hill Award as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year after leading the nation with 49 TD passes and 4,945 passing yards, isn’t working out with the team. With only one semester of eligibility remaining, he’s sitting out the spring in order to use that last semester in the fall.
Waialae says Amedro’s absence may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I’ve probably only seen Zach two or three times this semester because he’s been staying away from the team,” Waialae said. “It hasn’t been easy.
“On the other hand, it’s opened up a lot more reps for our other quarterbacks and they’ve really stepped up. (Freshman) Tyler Tucci might be the most improved player on the team.”
The quarterbacks certainly don’t lack for quality targets.
Junior All-Region tailback Kevon Calhoun scored 26 TDs and rushed for 1,529 yards – both school records – last fall.
Junior TE Ryan Travis (104 catches, 1,250 yards, 14 TDs) was a consensus All-American while junior WR Kashif Walls (61 catches, 1,321 yards, 22 TDs) made several All-America teams. Fellow junior WR Willie Walker (51 catches, 809 yards, 8 TDs) combined devastating blocking skills with game-breaking downfield speed.
One of the most talented receiving corps in the nation is being put to good use building strength on the other side of the ball this spring, especially in a secondary which was susceptible to the big play a year ago.
“The defensive backfield was a focus in recruiting and it has been a focus in the spring,” Waialae said. “From what I’ve seen so far, our defense is catching up to our offense in terms of quality depth.
“We have six or seven kids at the corners with six or seven more at the safeties and they can all play. Two of the transfers – Dashon Fooks and Alec Wood – have stood out but we have 10-12 kids for the five secondary spots. Competing against our receivers every day has really accelerated their development. I’m confident we’ll be much improved in the back.”
The 2009 Hilltoppers set the bar extremely high, rolling to an outright WVIAC championship, winning a school-record 11 games and finishing the year ranked No. 9 in the nation.
Waialae – the reigning WVIAC Coach of the Year – says his 2010 edition won’t back down from the challenge.
“We probably had the best offseason in terms of conditioning since I’ve been here,” Waialae said. “We had a taste of success last year and it just made us hungry for more.”
West Liberty will close out its spring football drills this week with the annual Black and Gold intersquad game on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon at Russek Field.