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Wide Receivers Preview

August 26, 2009

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       West Liberty University offensive coordinator Gary Krol expected the wide receiver position to be a strength with three returning starters but he could barely contain his excitement as the Hilltoppers’ preseason camp began to wind down.

      “We have at least seven wide receivers who could start for us,” Krol said as West Liberty began game week preparations for Saturday’s season opener at nationally-ranked Edinboro. “We’ll have the ability to stretch the field vertically as well as horizontally again this year. That’s something we weren’t able to last season to the same extent that we had in the past and it’s really going to open things up.”

      Senior Eddie Hills (5-10, 185) heads up the returning cast. The first-team All-WVIAC performer from Palmetto, Fla. led the league in receptions (61) and receiving yards (811) in his wide receiving debut last fall. Hills began his West Liberty career as an All-WVIAC tailback, posting back-to-back 1,100-yard rushing seasons as a freshman and sophomore. He also ran the ball 54 times for 339 yards in 2008.

      Ryan Travis (6-3, 235), a junior from Massillon (Ohio) Tuslaw, is another converted running back who emerged as a big-play performer a year ago. He had 41 catches for 577 yards and 4 TDs. Three of his catches covered 50 or more yards.

      “Those guys can line up anywhere on the field and they’re a threat to score anytime they touch the ball,” Krol said. “That gives us a chance to create some favorable matchups.”

      Willie Walker (6-5, 190), a junior from Cadiz, Ohio, is the other returning starter and may have had the best preseason camp of any receiver. Walker was limited by injuries a year ago but is back at full strength and used his combination of size and speed to make one spectacular catch after another during August workouts.

      The new face in the starting lineup belongs to Kashif Walls (6-4, 205), a junior-college transfer from Camden, N.J. Walls starred as a sprinter on the WLU track team this spring in between football workouts and showed his game-changing speed with 5 catches for 145 yards in the Hilltoppers’ spring game. “Kashif is definitely going to be able to stretch the field for us,” Krol said.

      Also in the rotation are Dontrell Lee (6-1, 185), a junior-college transfer from St. Louis, and a pair of returning lettermen in Alex Matviko (6-1, 180), a junior from New Kensington, Pa., and Pauly Ferguson (6-2, 180), a sophomore from Rocky River, Ohio. All three are expected to contribute along with Adam Hill (6-1, 205), a true freshman and converted quarterback from Corona, Calif. who came on strong late after battling an ankle injury through the early part of camp. He’s the son of David Hill, a former All-Pro tight end with the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams.

      Vinnie Candelore (5-10, 170) from Bunola, Pa. and Brandon Schroeder (6-2, 180) from Canonsburg, Pa. are two other true freshmen who have impressed the coaching staff with their work ethic. They’re joined by redshirt freshman Kevin Board (6-3, 180) of Williamstown, W.Va. along with true freshmen Quincy Bruton (5-10, 175) of St. Albans, W.Va. and Travis Coon (5-10, 170) of East Liverpool, Ohio in the battle for playing time at one of the team’s deepest positions.

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