Today, the Carolina RailHawks announced that it was exercising club options on the contracts for 12 members of the 2012 roster for the 2013 NASL season. The players are defenders Austen King and Justin Willis; midfielders Austin da Luz, Floyd Franks, Breiner Ortiz, Tiyi Shipalane, Nick Zimmerman, Nick Millington and Jake Beckford; and forwards Brian Ackley, Brian Shriver, and Zack Schilawski. Nine of the returnees were frequent starters for last season’s RailHawks, including Zimmerman, whose 15 goals was the second-most in the NASL, and Shipalane, whose late-game heroics included at least five game-winning or tying goals in all competitions.

This wholesale roster replenishment stands in marked contrast to a year ago, when the RailHawks had only two players under contract when Colin Clarke was announced as the team’s new manager following the departure of Martin Rennie. Indeed, team president Curt Johnson said at the time that a new emphasis in player personnel going forward would be signing more players to contracts that include club options for additional seasons, in contrast to the closed, short-term contracts often employed during Rennie’s tenure at Carolina.

“Being able to bring back a core group of the players is an important piece for our plans in 2013,” Clarke said through a team statement. “With the new league format, having stability and consistency in the roster will give us the opportunity to get off to a fast start.”

Exercising club options does not preclude any player from exploring other options, including Zimmerman, Franks, Shipalane and da Luz, who have all previously spent time in MLS. However, the option does allow Carolina the right to seek some form of compensation in exchange for relinquishing a player’s 2013 contractual rights. Moreover, exercising a club option does not necessarily guarantee that the player will end up being on the 2013 roster: one of the two players on the RailHawks’ roster when Clarke was hired was defender Cory Miller, who was released during training camp.

Clarke also said that the team was still working to resign other key members of last year’s squad. Team officials would not disclose who they were still attempting to resign, nor which player options, if any, the club declined to exercise.