Liberty Flames Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Liberty season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Liberty Flames Preview
Head Coach: Hugh Freeze, 4th year at Liberty, 26-11
12th year overall, 85-43, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 8-5
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Liberty Top 10 Players | Liberty Schedule
Liberty Flames Preview 2022
No, Liberty didn’t go 10-1 like it did in 2020, and no, it didn’t come up with a slew of special wins over Power Five programs like it did when it ripped through the ACC.
It was still an eight-win season, there was a third straight bowl win, and head coach Hugh Freeze appears to have the transfer portal rocking and rolling to quickly fill in the gaps.
It’s hard to get better when you lose talent like QB Malik Willis and tacklers like Storey Jackson and Rashaad Harding at linebacker, but the Flames were young last year, they upgraded the depth this offseason, and the schedule is almost a perfect combination of cream-puff and good tests.
It’ll take something disastrous for Liberty to not make a fourth straight bowl game. The question is how many teams it can screw up on the way there.
Liberty Flames Preview 2022: Offense
The offense should’ve been a whole lot better. It became too reliant on Malik Willis, the running backs weren’t tearing off yards in chunks like they did in 2020, and turnovers became a problem.
Even so, and even with the late season power outage with the O failing to score 17 points in any of the last three games, it still averaged 436 yards and 34 points per game. But now it has to replace Willis, and that starts with …
Charlie Brewer – it only seems like he’s been in college football for the last nine years. The former Baylor Bear and Utah Ute isn’t going to run like Willis, but he’s a veteran game manager who’ll get the ball in everyone’s hands and keep the offense going … if he wins the job. Brewer is the safe call, but redshirt freshman Kaiden Salter could be the shot for the stars.
The receiving corps should be better. Demario Douglas and CJ Daniels were 1-2, respectively, in catches last season, but Daniels is coming off a torn ACL.
Campbell transfer Caleb Snead will be a factor, and veteran CJ Yarbrough is back after taking a season off.
The running back situation is strong. TJ Green was the leading back last season with 477 yards and four scores – averaging over six yards per cary – and smallish, quick back Shedro Lewis is dangerous whenever he has the ball. Also in the mix is Hawaii transfer Dae Dae Hunter – he’s got the talent to take over the gig and make it his.
The O line is also getting help from the transfer portal. Nassir Watkins from Kentucky should slide into a tackle spot, and Boston College/Colorado State C Cam Reddy is going to be a fixture.
Liberty Flames Preview 2022: Defense
The defense was able to hold its own throughout last year. The line was great at getting into the backfield, there was a lot of bending-not-breaking, and overall the Flames allowed just 320 yards and 22 points per game.
The line should be fantastic. It’s good as is, and it got help from the transfer portal to add even more depth. TreShaun Clark will be one of the best defensive ends Liberty opponents will deal with all year, and Durrell Johnson isn’t all that far behind. Dre Butler from Auburn will help a promising rotation on the inside.
JUCO transfer Mike Smith will be the man in the middle of the linebacking corps, and there’s work to do around him.
The Flames have talent and a few good veterans – Aikil Washington is a pass rusher who’ll likely play a hybrid linebacker role – to try to replace the 182 tackles of lost production from Storey Jackson and Rashaad Harding.
Jason Scruggs is a tough safety who’ll be among the team’s top tacklers, and the corners should be okay. However, this group didn’t pick off enough passes last year – just seven of the nine – and most of that production is gone.