Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football program will open its 2013 campaign on the road at two-time defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State on Saturday with a heavy dose of West Michigan talent expected to contribute.
The Bulldogs' season-opening two deep lineup and list of potential starters includes 22 student-athletes from communities located in various parts of West Michigan such as Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Zeeland, Muskegon, Rockford, Greenville, Ravenna and more. Nearly 50 percent of FSU's projected starters are West Michigan natives.
"We've worked hard as a coaching staff over the last year and a half to really develop great relationships with high school coaches across the state and especially in West Michigan," said FSU head coach Tony Annese. "There have traditionally been some outstanding programs in this part of the state over the years and we're excited that we've been able to draw so many potential impact players from this area so close to home."
Additionally, the Bulldogs' projected game week contributors also include at least 12 players who spent time in West Michigan at Grand Rapids Community College under Annese's direction before embarking on their Bulldog careers.
Besides the ties to West Michigan found among this week's potential two-deep players, the overall Bulldog roster includes more than 60 individuals and over half of the entire FSU squad from portions of West and Northwest Michigan.
A number of true freshmen are included in the group of players from the west side of the state with several battling for potential playing time heading into their initial Bulldog campaigns.
Ferris State's projected lineup for this week's trip to North Dakota State, which is subject to change, features West Michigan returnees such as cornerback A.J. McEwen (East Grand Rapids), defensive linemen Justin Zimmer (Greenville) and Carlton Johnson (Muskegon) along with offensive linemen Carlin Landingham (Muskegon), Justin Glover (Grand Rapids/Union) and Sam Parker (Muskegon/Mona Shores). Also included in the list of potential starters is senior tight end Jace Heneveld (Zeeland/East), kicker Austin Kantola (Ravenna) and safety Jonathan Flynn, a senior from Traverse City West in the northwest part of Michigan.
The Bulldogs' two-deep also consists of other West Michigan products such as cornerback John Waller (Muskegon/North Muskegon), defensive linemen Paeton Caldwell (Kalamazoo/Central), quarterback/punter Taylor Masiewicz (Rockford), wide receiver Shakur Sanders (Kentwood/Ottawa Hills), tailback Kitwana Clark (Grand Rapids/Kenowa Hills), linebacker James Wimberly (Marshall), tight end Cody Dewitt (New Era/Shelby), safety Jamar Wimberly (Marshall), long snapper John Childers (Muskegon/Mona Shores), linebacker John Purdy (Traverse City/West) in addition to offensive linemen such as Zack Wiersma (Big Rapids), Danzell Maze (Grand Rapids/Ottawa Hills) and Jacob VanderKlok (Grand Rapids/South Christian).
The group of former student-athletes who played for Annese at GRCC and could potentially see significant action includes several who also played prep football in West Michigan like Landingham, Johnson, Glover, Childers and the Wimberly's. Others include returning tailback Korey Ringer, slot receiver Torico Searcy, defensive linemen Corey Stone and Marcus Cribbs, receiver Martez Kelly and linebacker Terrell Porter.
Ferris State's West Michigan contingent and the rest of the Bulldogs will open the school's 105th season of varsity competition with a major challenge on the road at North Dakota State, which is ranked number one nationally this week in the FCS National Rankings following a 24-21 upset over defending Big 12 Conference Champion Kansas State on the road last week.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (ET) at Gate City Bank Field inside NDSU's Fargodome and the contest will be televised live around the world by ESPN3.
Besides facing one of the nation's top collegiate football programs, the Bulldogs will also take the field in front of one of college football's most passionate fan bases. More than 100,000 fans a year pass through the Fargodome to watch the Bison, ranking North Dakota State in the top 10 nationally for attendance in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Known as one of the loudest environments to play in college football, the Fargodome crowd routinely goes over 100 decibels. NDSU's home since 1993 has become of the most difficult places in the country for opponents to play and can pack in 19,000 fans for football games. BleacherReport.com named the Fargodome among its top 50 greatest college stadiums in 2011.