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Offensive Line Preview

August 27, 2009


The West Liberty University football staff made the offensive line a priority when it hit the recruiting trail last year and those efforts appear to have paid off as the Hilltoppers prepare to open the 2009 season on Saturday afternoon at nationally-ranked Edinboro (Pa.).

      “We had a grand total of nine offensive linemen a year ago,” offensive coordinator Gary Krol said at the end of preseason drills. “This year we’ve almost doubled that to 16.

      “We brought in some really talented kids but the kids we have coming back answered that challenge by working hard to get bigger and stronger during the offseason. We had great depth and competition up front for the whole month of August and that’s going to pay big dividends for us during the season.”

      Ben Staggs (6-4, 275) and Tim Ickes (6-3, 280), a pair of seniors from Wooster, Ohio, are back to anchor the line. Staggs will be a third-year starter at tackle while Ickes, another returning starter, could move from tackle to guard. Ben Davis (6-3, 300), a junior who started several games at guard a year ago, could fit in at either guard or center.

      A trio of transfers could crack the starting lineup on Saturday. Will Alvarez (6-5, 320), is a sophomore transfer from Virginia Tech who was ranked among the nation’s top 10 offensive linemen coming out of high school in Virginia. Jose Baez (6-1, 315) and Nick Madia (6-0, 285) were All-Conference performers at their California junior-colleges a year ago.

      Dan Srch (6-1, 285) is another junior-college transfer whose ability to play multiple positions adds to the depth that will likely see the Hilltoppers utilizing as many as 10-12 offensive linemen over the course of a game this season. That depth makes it a little easier to absorb the loss of another junior-college transfer as Randy Lemus (6-1, 270) suffered a season-ending injury during the final week of camp.

      Several true freshmen made their presence felt during August drills. David Fernandez (6-3, 315) of Cooper City, Fla., Kameron Barnes (6-4, 310) of Wooster, Ohio, and Adam Wakefield (6-8, 305) of Rochester, Pa. had very impressive camps.

      Also in the mix up front are freshmen Conor Leckey (6-4, 270) of Ballyclare, Northern Ireland; Mark Jarrett (6-6, 235) of Wheeling, W.Va.; and Justin Wajda (6-2, 255) of Parkersburg. Tyler Kettlewell (6-2, 210) of Wheeling, W.Va. is taking a medical redshirt and hopes to be back in action next fall.

      “Our skill kids match up with anybody in the country,” Krol concluded, “so I believe the success of our offensive line will determine whether we win the championship or not. That’s how important it is.”


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