Large Recruiting Class Bolsters WLU Grid Roster

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – With spring drills well under way on the hilltop, West Liberty head football coach Roger Waialae has released the Hilltoppers' 2022 recruiting class.

   They're still working through the paperwork for a few recent commits but Waialae and his coaches have already landed one of their larger recruiting classes in recent years. A total of 23 incoming freshmen and collegiate transfers have cast their lot with the Black and Gold, some of whom are already on campus participating in spring drills.

   "Recruiting always begins at home with the OVAC and the tri-state area," Waialae said. "Starting from there, our coaches were able to expand that footprint somewhat and I think it paid off with one of the more athletic and versatile classes we've had. We'll be bringing in a few more guys before the start of fall practice but we have definitely raised the talent level within our program."

   The Hilltoppers had to work through some significant graduation losses but the large group of newcomers along with anticipated debuts from some talented redshirt freshmen eases those concerns for the veteran head man, who pointed out that the Hilltoppers' talent search was focused on quality as well as quantity.

   "The raw numbers are good and the overall quality is very good, especially on the defensive side," Waialae said. "Defensive line was the biggest immediate need with only one guy back (All-MEC defensive end David Gilcreast) who played significant minutes. We have five really good redshirt linemen returning so the cupboard isn't bare but we needed to restock. The goal for this year wasn't just to replenish our talent and depth where graduation hit, it was to create competition at those spots in the spring and fall."

   Waialae filled a couple of important special teams holes with a pair of transfers from the California juco ranks in kicker Justin Kaplan and long snapper Jake Maggio. A solid receiving corps also gets a boost from graduate transfers C.J. Turner (New Hampshire) and Chris Charles (Robert Morris).

   The depth and talent in the quarterback room also picked up a pair of transfers in former Wheeling Park all-stater Alex Dunlevy (W.Va. State) and Geno Pellegrini (Robert Morris) while Anthony Barmer (Compton JC) provides another viable option at a running back spot that was hit hard by the injury bug a year ago. Jay Johnson is a sophomore linebacker transferring in from Clarion (Pa.).

   “The transfers, especially the grad transfers, obviously have a head start with that college experience under their belts,” Waialae said, “but we think a high percentage of the freshmen have the potential to come in here and compete for playing time and even a starting job in fall camp.

   “One of the things that really jumped out at us on tape was how many of our freshmen showed the ability to play at a high level on both sides of the football. That kind of versatility is a tremendous asset to a program so a major priority for us in August will be finding the best fit for them.”

   The Hilltoppers are approaching the midway point of their spring practice sessions, leading up to an April 14 Black and Gold scrimmage under the Thursday Night Lights.

   Here’s a list of capsules for West Liberty’s current 2022 recruiting class:




Anthony Barmer    RB            6-0           205          Jr.             Baltimore, Md./Edgewood (Compton JC)

    Played 2021 season at Compton (Calif.) JC; 1st-team All-Prep RB at Georgia Sports Academy in 2017; Redshirted at NCAA DI Temple in 2018; Football/lacrosse star at Edgewood (Md.) HS; Played in Blue/Gray All-America Game and Maryland All-Star Game

Chris Charles           WR           6-3           205          Gr.           Trenton, N.J./Hamilton West (Robert Morris)

    Played in 6 games over last two years at FCS Robert Morris (Pa.); Caught 5 passes for 71 yards; Record-setting WR/DB/P at Hamilton West HS in Trenton, N.J.

Alex Dunlevy          QB            6-1           190          R-Fr.        Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park (W.Va. State)

    Signed with West Virginia State out of high school but did not see action; Record-setting 1st-team All-West Virginia Class AAA quarterback at Wheeling Park HS; Threw for 2,808 yards and 30 TDs while running for 400 yards and 7 more scores as a senior

Jayson Gipson        DE            6-3           230          Fr.            Baytown, Texas/Goose Creek

    1st-team Texas Class 5A Division I All-District TE/RB at Baytown (Texas) Goose Creek HS


Dante Glading        OL            6-5           250          Fr.            Polk City, Fla./Auburndale

    Starting offensive lineman on unbeaten District championship team at Auburndale (Fla.) HS

Curtis Hayes            OL            6-2           300          Fr.            Parkersburg, W.Va./Parkersburg

    1st-team All-MSAC selection and three-year starter at Parkersburg (W.Va.) HS

Jay Johnson             LB             5-10         210          So.           Monroeville, Pa./Gateway (Clarion)

    Redshirted at NCAA Division II Clarion (Pa.); Star linebacker on 2019 WPIAL Class 5A championship team at Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway HS

Justin Kaplan          PK            6-1           205          Jr.             San Diego, Calif./Torrey Pines (Saddleback JC)

    Starting kicker at Saddleback JC; Season-long 43-yard field goal; All-Conference kicker at San Diego (Calif.) Torrey Pines HS

Brandon Kinney     LB             6-0           205          Fr.            Steubenville, Ohio/Steubenville

    2-time All-District and 2nd-team All-Ohio linebacker at Steubenville (Ohio) HS

Jackson LaFrance   OL            6-5           235          Fr.            Coral Springs, Fla./Cypress Bay

    Two-year starting offensive lineman at Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay HS

Ryan Longman       TE             6-3           225          Fr.            Brandon, Fla./Seffner Christian

    Rare two-way starter (TE/DE) for Brandon (Fla.) Seffner Christian HS helped lead team to back-to-back Florida state semifinal berths

Jake Maggio            LS             5-9           175          Jr.             Bridgewater, N.J./Raritan (Citrus JC)

    Long-snapping specialist at Citrus (Calif.) JC in 2021; Redshirted at FCS University of Maine in 2019; 3-year starter on back-to-back New Jersey state runner-up squads at Bridgewater (N.J.) Raritan HS

Maxwell Martin-Lee               DL            6-3           300          Fr.            Dublin, Ohio/Scioto

    All-OCC two-way lineman for Dublin (Ohio) Scioto HS

Luis Martinez          OL            6-5           255          Fr.            Vista, Calif./Vista

    3-year starting tight end at Vista (Calif.) HS

Thaddeus McDuffie                DL            6-3           280          Fr.            Westerville, Ohio/South

    All-Conference defensive lineman Westerville (Ohio) South HS

Geno Pellegrini       QB            6-0           170          So.           Charleroi, Pa./Charleroi (Robert Morris)

    Transfer from FCS Robert Morris (Pa.); Racked up 6,408 career passing yards and 68 TDs at Charleroi (Pa.) HS; Completed 120-of-200 (.600) passes for 2,296 yards and 31 TDs with 7 INTs while rushing for 801 yards and 12 TDs as a senior

Nolan Shimp           DB            6-0           195          Fr.            West Hamlin, W.Va./Lincoln County

    Two-time All-West Virginia Class AA linebacker recorded 100+ tackles as a senior at Lincoln County HS

Joey Slaughter        DE            6-0           235          Fr.            Shepherdstown, W.Va./Jefferson

    All-Conference defensive lineman at Jefferson (W.Va.) HS

Peako (Rocky) Tautai              LB             6-1           205          Fr.            Compton, Calif./Lakewood

    All-Moore League linebacker at Compton (Calif.) Lakewood HS

Alipate Tuitavuki   DE            6-3           210          Fr.            Blacklick, Ohio/Gahanna Lincoln

    All-OCC outside linebacker/defensive end at Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln HS

Ben Turner              WR           5-9           160          Fr.            Huntington, W.Va./Spring Valley

    Huntington Herald-Dispatch All-Tri-State Team; Caught 33 passes for 473 yards and 4 TDs as a senior at Spring Valley (W.Va.) HS

C.J. Turner               WR           5-7           175          Gr.           Rochester, N.Y./Eastridge (New Hampshire)

    Graduate transfer WR/KR from FCS New Hampshire; Caught 8 passes for 101 yards in final season with the Wildcats; Two-time All-State WR/RB/KR at Rochester (N.Y.) Eastridge HS; Scored school-record 36 TDs; cousin of former WLU standout Jeremiah Ortiz

Josh Warnock         TE             6-5           240          Fr.            Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota

    Starting tight end as a senior at Sarasota (Fla.) HS

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