It was a down year for Liberty last season going 6-5 and missing out on the FCS playoffs after making it for the first time in program history the year, the Flames are looking for a bounce back year. With aspirations of eventually making the jump up to the FBS level, Liberty has got their eye on dates with Virginia Tech and SMU as a chance to make a statement early on but will have to do it with a fairly new roster.
With Josh Woodrum moving on due to graduation, and one of the best wide receiver in school history, Darrin Peterson, currently in camp with the Chicago Bears, it’s a new look for the offense with Stephon Masha taking over. New this year, the Flames will be transitioning from running a pro-style offense to more of an up tempo spread offense designed to get Masha out of the pocket.
Last year, SMU had a tough time to say the least trying to stop James Madison’s Vad Lee, however that should be a little more manageable this year as Liberty has struggled in the past to establish the running game however the Flames will look to use the read option more this season.
One name to keep an eye on is sophomore wide receiver B.J Farrow. The 6-2, 190-pound receiver had 32 receptions for 448 receiving yards last year and has impressed the coaching staff so far this fall. Also turning heads is Jack Parker, a slot receiver that is a big target for Liberty’s quarterbacks on third down given his ability to find the sticks. In the running game, Liberty saw a lot of turnover with Desmond Rice and D.J Abnar both graduating.
Next in line is Todd Macon who had 8 touchdowns last season while rushing for over 300 yards. This will be a big area for Liberty to see where it is early in the season, as currently on their roster their running backs have combined for 139 total carries with Macon having 134 of those.
On the defensive side of the ball last season, Liberty was strong in their front four but had some growing pains with a young secondary. Last season, they started three freshmen and two sophomores that have been working to limit the big plays that hurt them last season.
One name to keep an eye on this side of the ball is JaRon Greene who finished with a season high 36 tackles and two sacks. To get an idea of the athleticism Greene possesses, Liberty beat writer, Damien Sordelett, at 6-2, 310-pounds, Greene is able to do a backflip but also notes he’s the most NFL ready player on this team.
Given the amount of attention Greene requires, he opens up a lot of holes for other pass rushers. Another name to keep an eye on is sophomore defensive end Juwan Wells who had a couple starts late in the year. In his freshman season, Wells also finished the year with five sacks.
SMU is going to have to be ready for this game as Liberty has knocked off an FBS team in each of the last three seasons and are now looking to make that bigger statement. While they pose some different challenges to what SMU faced with JMU, they also will be playing a team that is not scared of them one bit and is looking to take that next step after a disappointing season.
This also serves as a really important game for SMU as it sandwiched between matchups with Baylor and TCU. The Mustangs are certainly going to have to control the running game, something that plagued them all last season.