Regardless of all the jokes on twitter about the match made in heaven that is Liberty University and Hugh Freeze, it’s undeniably a great hire from an on-field perspective. Turner Gill was solid in Liberty’s first year as an FBS program, leading the Flames to a 6-6 year, although they weren’t bowl eligible because two of the wins were against FCS competition.
With Gill retired, the former Ole Miss head coach was hired and brought in a mostly new coaching staff with Maurice Harris and Kent Austin as co-coordinators on offense, and Scott Symons as the DC. 15 starters are back, but the schedule gets tougher and with two FCS on the schedule again, Liberty would need a 7-5 record for bowl eligibility.
The offense returns one of the best G5 pass-catchers in the country in Antonio Gandy-Golden (1,037 yards, 14.6 YPC, ten touchdowns). Slot men DJ Stubbs and Damian King are back as well for senior QB Stephen Calvert, who was inconsistent last year but all in all solid for an FCS QB making the transition to the FBS.
The run game was solid last year too. RBs Frankie Hickson and Peytton Pickett are back after combining for 20 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards. The line returns three starters and adds JUCO Maisen Knight at tackle. With Freeze at the helm, this offense could improve.
On defense, Hugh Freeze hired former West Georgia DC Scott Symons by way of Memphis (Symons was a position coach there last year), a really solid hire in my estimation, and the Flames need it to be after allowing 36.8 PPG last year.
Solomon Ajayi is a terrific middle linebacker, and strong safety Elijah Benton was a bright spot in the back last year. CB Bejour Wilson got beat every once in a while but made big plays too (10 PBUs, three picks) and returns, and Freeze adds some JUCOs all around the defense.
DE Jessie Lemonier is a potential star after ten sacks as a freshman, and with most of the defense back and another year of FBS recruiting to add depth I expect the defense to improve.
The schedule is tough. Liberty has five likely losses (the three P5 games, @ BYU, and @ Louisiana), two likely wins (the two FCS games), and five games projected within six points. As I said in the opening, due to playing two FCS foes Liberty needs to win seven games to make a bowl, that would mean running the table in all five toss-ups or pulling a pretty big upset, so while the path is there, it’s pretty slim.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|5-Oct||at New Mexico State||125||-1.5|
|30-Nov||New Mexico State||125||4.5|
Average Projected Record: 5.2 wins, 6.8 losses