New Faces Impress Coach Roger Waialae As West Liberty Football Returns
WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty head football coach Roger Waialae has followed up a strong 2020 recruiting class with an impressive 2021 group as the Hilltoppers prepare to return to the gridiron for an abbreviated spring season.
After bringing in a robust 27-man combination of high school seniors, early enrollees and collegiate transfers a year ago as part of the 2020 recruiting class – and in light of the roster options afforded by the NCAA due to the pandemic – Waialae and his staff could afford to be much more selective in assembling this year’s class.
“When the NCAA announced that everybody who played this spring would receive eligibility waivers, it meant that seniors in their final year of eligibility would be permitted to come back and play a full senior season in the fall,” Waialae said. “That actually created a roster crunch, especially for FCS and FBS teams. With those guys coming back, many of those teams didn’t have space for the 20-25 freshmen who might normally wind up at those programs which opened up access for us to some pretty talented guys.”
Waialae said the biggest need area for the Hilltoppers was in the secondary as six multi-year lettermen graduated a year ago and several younger defensive backs either opted out or transferred closer to home due to concerns over the pandemic. The offensive and defensive lines get their share of attention during every recruiting cycle with skill positions also meriting a look.
In the end, Waialae and his veteran staff identified and signed 13 high school freshmen for the fall while adding seven more collegiate transfers along with a late freshman signing from the 2020 class. It’s a smaller class than usual – the Hilltoppers also have several seniors planning to return in the fall – but Waialae is more than pleased with the results.
Junior college transfers Widly Francois and Keshon Lang will provide an immediate boost to the secondary, along with Marshall Whipkey, who spent last year as an invited walk-on at West Virginia. Damion Brown, another junior college transfer, led L.A. Harbor (Calif.) College in sacks a year ago and should make his presence felt on the defensive line.
Offensively, Marquis Johnson is a potential difference-maker at tight end as a former FBS signee who excelled at the juco level. RayQuin Glover is a Slippery Rock transfer who will add speed to WLU’s wide receiving and kick return game. Aidan Howard, a former 3-star tight end signee at the University of Virginia, has battled injury throughout his career but should be back to 100 percent in the fall.
Also available for the spring schedule is a late freshman signing in Keonte Coffie, a 5-10, 195-pound back who rushed for nearly 5,000 yards and 37 TDs as a three-year starter at Oviedo (Fla.) High School.
The freshmen that will be on the fall roster include Wheeling Park’s Beau Heller (QB), Carson Namack (WR) and Sincere Sinclair (DB).
The remaining freshmen are Anthony Collura (DB), Jordan Demus (DB), Niko Fowler (OL), Elijah Hadley (DB) Solomon Johnston (DL), Delano Marcelus (DL), Javoni Mitchell (DE), Carson Moore (DL)and Chris Wilson (DB).