Having 102 players in grades 10-12 on the roster of Olentangy Liberty means that senior offensive lineman Tyus Thompson has what he calls a huge number of "brothers" during his final prep season.

That number presents a different kind of scenario for coach Steve Hale and his staff, which must keep track of a roster that will rival any in central Ohio in terms of size.

Among Hale's challenges are deciding on players at positions like wide receiver, which has more than three dozen athletes listed as options.

The positive side, of course, is that this depth should again be a strength for the Patriots, who have reached three consecutive Division I state semifinals.

Liberty went 9-5 overall a year ago and shared the OCC-Buckeye Division title with Orange at 4-1. The Pioneers defeated the Patriots 17-3 in week 9.

"We're looking really good," senior offensive lineman Ben Wrather said. "We're just working on getting some younger guys to step up and fill the roles of the guys we lost last year. We really believe in strength in numbers. There are always guys pushing each other and getting an extra rep in. It's really good for our team."

Despite the large pool of players, the Patriots must replace a 33-member senior class that featured a three-year starter at quarterback in Mitchell Okuley, an offensive lineman who is playing at Colorado State in Alex Azusenis and others including Nick Paolo (LB), Mitchell Kershner (WR/DB/K) and Jamie Hessing (TE/DL).

The schedule, as well as the potential playoff road, could end up being more difficult as well.

In Week 2 the Patriots will face Huber Heights Wayne, a Division I playoff qualifier in Region 3 last season.

In addition, Liberty has been moved from Region 2 to Region 3, which features area-power Pickerington Central as well as most of central Ohio's other top programs. The Patriots competed in Region 2 the past three seasons

Liberty again opens against Pickerington North (Aug. 30 at home), which went 6-4 and missed the postseason but beat the Patriots 17-0 to begin last season.

"We've got a lot of guys who are good players that haven't played a ton of football," Hale said.

"We're very deep and in some spots we're two and three deep with players that can compete for the spot, so that can help us. Our non-conference is tough and our conference is going to be a challenge as always."

OFFENSE

An offensive line that features Thompson and Wrather should be among Liberty's strengths.

Wrather is a Northwestern commit and Thompson will play for Sagninaw Valley State.

The Patriots also have a pair of experienced skill-position players in junior running back Aidan Kenley and senior wide receiver Kyle Wilson.

Kenley finished with 1,044 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 261 carries and 20 receptions for 234 yards and one score, while Wilson had 37 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. There also are numerous others who could contribute at receiver.

"We've got a lot of guys that look the same," said Hale, whose team lost 42-16 to eventual state champion Lakewood St. Edward in a state semifinal last fall.

Senior Corbin Parrish, who stepped in at quarterback when Okuley was sidelined by injury early last season, is among the options at quarterback along with senior Jackson Roberts and junior Mitchell Fields.

Okuley threw for 1,687 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 533 yards and 18 touchdowns and was one of the league's co-Players of the Year on offense. Kershner, who was the leading receiver with 43 catches, also was lost to graduation.

Kenley was first-team all-league and Parrish and Thompson both made the second team.

DEFENSE

Senior linebackers Tyson Chapman, Ben Cox and Dylan Stevens should anchor the defense along with Parrish, who was a starter in the secondary.

Stevens was first-team all-league, Chapman was second-team all-league and Cox made special mention.

Seniors Ben Flees and Kaden Tong will lead the line.

Juniors Drew Thornton and Brian Yamokoski each should see time at strong safety, with junior Dominick Magistrale also expected to contribute in the backfield.

"We've got quite a few guys back and hopefully we'll be strong," Hale said. "I don't know how big we are. Hopefully we're quick. The defense did a great job in the playoffs, and having those guys back should help."

SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior Tyler Rosselli, who did not play last season, should be the kicker and also could see action at wide receiver.

Parrish likely will return at punter after averaging 37.8 yards on 58 attempts.

Kenley and Stevens were the primary kickoff and punt returners last season, and both could fill that role again along with junior Camden Barcus, Thornton and senior A.J. Rausch.

According to Hale, both his son, junior Matthew Hale, and Yamokoski, have "college-level" abilities as long snappers.

THE LINEUP

Offense

Quarterbacks: Mitchell Fields (jr., 5-10, 170), Corbin Parrish (sr., 6-0, 180), Jackson Roberts (sr., 6-0, 195)

Running backs: *Aidan Kenley (jr., 5-11, 180), Ryan Ritter (sr., 6-0, 170), Tyler Rosselli (jr., 5-5, 160), Brennan Rowe (sr., 6-1, 195), Dylan Stevens (sr., 5-9, 195)

Receivers: *Kyle Wilson (sr., 6-3, 190), Camden Barcus (jr., 6-0, 165), Jacob Kessler (sr., 5-11, 175), Dominick Magistrale (jr., 5-10, 160), A.J. Rausch (sr., 5-11, 180), Drew Thornton (jr., 5-6, 165)

Tight ends: Jacob Bonacci (jr., 6-2, 225), Landon Smith (jr., 6-3, 225)

Linemen: *Tyus Thompson (sr., 6-3, 280), *Ben Wrather (sr., 6-6, 300), Kyle Hehmeyer (sr., 6-0, 235), Jacob Sulewski (sr., 6-2, 225), Max Turner (sr., 6-3, 230), Matthew Wrather (jr., 5-10, 205)

Defense

Linemen: *Matthew Barrett (sr., 6-0, 210), *Ben Flees (sr., 6-4, 215), *Kaden Tong (sr., 6-1, 230), Bonacci, Smith

Linebackers: *Tyson Chapman (sr., 5-11, 175), *Ben Cox (sr., 5-11, 195), *Stevens

Secondary: *Andrew Barrett (sr., 5-11, 170), *Ryan Bird (sr., 6-0, 165), *Parrish, Magistrale, Thornton, Brian Yamokoski (jr., 5-11, 175)

Special teams

Kicker: *Rosselli

Punter: *Parrish

Returners: *Kenley, Barcus, Rausch, Stevens, Thornton

Long snappers: Matthew Hale (jr., 5-11, 180), Yamokoski

(*Denotes projected starter)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek