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Linebackers Preview

August 20, 2009

linebackers  

“I can’t imagine any team in the country being in better shape at linebacker than we are,” says West Liberty University defensive coordinator Jeff Monteroso. “Nick Harding and Clay Beeler were both All-Region guys last year and have All-American potential.

Clay Beeler

Clay Beeler

      “We have talented, experienced players backing them up who would probably be starting for a lot of other teams and I’m really excited about the new kids we brought in. This is very much a position of strength for us, both now and for the foreseeable future.”

      Monteroso provided an in-depth preview of the Hilltoppers’ linebacker picture as the team prepares to head into game-week preparation for the Aug. 29 opener at nationally-ranked Edinboro:

      Returning starters Nick Harding (6-0, 230) and Clay Beeler (6-1, 235) form one of the premier inside linebacker tandems in NCAA Division II football.

      Harding, a senior from Lackawanna, N.Y., played one season at NCAA Division I-AA Appalachian State before transferring to West Liberty and has been a fixture on the Hilltopper defense ever since. He has topped the 100-tackle mark each of the past two seasons and led the WVIAC in tackles last fall with 115 stops. Harding earned first-team All-WVIAC honors for the second straight season and was a second-team All-Region selection.

      Beeler, a junior from Waverly, Ohio, is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign that saw him lead the WVIAC with 20 tackles-for-loss while ranking among the league leaders with a team-high 9 quarterback sacks. Beeler’s 111 total tackles were No. 2 in the WVIAC, trailing only Harding. He was a first-team All-Region selection and was named NCAA Division II Linebacker of the Year by Don Hansen’s Football Gazette.

Nick Harding

Nick Harding

      “You couldn’t ask for anything more from Nick and Clay,” Monteroso said. “Not only are they outstanding football players, they’re tremendous leaders on and off the field.”

      Fred Kimbro (5-9, 190), a junior from Bellaire, Ohio, and Mike Buffo (5-10, 205), a junior from Weirton, W.Va., return as the primary reserves at linebacker. The junior vets played in every game last season and combined for nearly 30 tackles. They also make their marks on special teams. Nick Lauer (5-10, 210), a junior from Prospect, Ohio, earned some playing time a year ago and will contribute on special teams.

      There are five new faces in the linebacker corps.

      Dustin Whittlesey (6-1, 225) is a junior-college transfer from Torrance, Calif. who has impressed with run-stopping ability in camp.

      Mike Waderker (6-0, 225), a redshirt freshman from Belpre, Ohio, has made great strides in his second preseason camp.

      Dan Carrel (5-11, 215), a freshman who played his high school ball at Union Local (Ohio), joined the team in the spring and benefitted from the extra practice sessions.

      Marcus Raney (6-0, 200), a freshman from Westerville (Ohio) North High School, has impressed the coaching staff with his closing speed in camp.

      T.J. Lesniewski (5-11, 200), a freshman from Butler, Pa., has also proven to be a quick study in his first collegiate preseason.

      “I think those kids have a really bright future,” Monteroso said. “The best thing about it is that we have enough quality depth that we don’t have to throw them into the fire. They have a year to learn what we’re trying to do and with the kids we have in place, they’ll be learning from the best.”

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