It’s remarkable how much changes in one year. Just twelve short months ago, Liberty had a 4th year quarterback in Stephon Masha who was named starter after spring practice. Behind him were two true freshmen that were talented, but still true freshman.
QB #12 Buckshot Calvert Sophomore 6’2″ 180 Plantation, FL
QB #4 Mason Cunningham Sophomore 6’0″ 190 Shelbyville, TN
QB #15 Landon Brown Freshman 6’2″ 200 Tulsa, OK
QB #13 Rudiger Yearick R-Freshman 6’3″ 195 Matthews, NC
QB #19 David Jeremiah R-Freshman 6’0″ 185 San Diego, CA
Fast forward to this year, and Masha has been pushed out and Buckshot is becoming a household name among Liberty circles.
Calvert took over the starting quarterback position in game 5 last season and never relinquished it. He went on to start 7 games, while making an appearance in all 11, and completing 57.3% of his 262 passes for 1,931 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He’s poised to take a huge step forward in his 2nd season with the program.
“The maturity of Buckshot has been awesome to see,” Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Joe Dailey said. “When I got him last year he was coming from high school football where he played a great brand of football, but they didn’t run as many plays, wasn’t as detailed-oriented, he was asked to download, process, and execute a lot of information that was not familiar to him in a short period of time. Now that he’s in year two, his 2nd training camp, he’s been able to take that information, master it, and take on even more. So, now he’s really, really comfortable in what he’s doing. I’m excited to see him when it really counts.”
In just watching him conduct himself on and off the field and while conducting interviews, he’s clearly more confident. He says that confidence comes from hard work and time spent watching film.
“Getting in the playbook more, knowing every single play backwards and forwards, and working on my reads on defenses,” Buckshot said of what he’s concentrated on during the off-season. “Coach Dailey’s really been working on me a lot. He’s been working with me hard, and I feel like those things will carry over into the season for me.”
Behind Calvert there is plenty of inexperience with 3 freshmen or redshirt freshmen and a sophomore, none of whom have taken a snap of live game action at Liberty. A JUCO transfer, Mason Cunningham, has emerged from the pack, and is staking his claim to the #2 spot behind Buckshot. He enrolled at Liberty in January, spending the entire spring and summer with the team, and has spent that time to learn the offense.
“Coming in this spring definitely helped,” Mason said. “I familiarized myself with the offense. It was really a smooth transition into fall camp. Instead of learning just one summer, I had a whole semester and a summer. I was able to go slower. Coach Dailey has what he calls a quarterback school, so, I was able to go through that and learn step-by-step.”
Cunningham has a redshirt year available, and Coach Gill says he hasn’t completely ruled out using that redshirt this year. Gill says if he had to make a decision today, it would be to not use the redshirt and play Mason as Calvert’s backup. Cunningham comes to Liberty after playing one season at Northeast Mississippi Community College, making an appearance in the hit show “Last Chance U” while competing in one of the best JUCO leagues in the country.
“It’s super competitive,” Cunningham said speaking of the JUCO ball in Mississippi. “Of course, I’m going to be biased and say it’s the best Junior College League and has the most competition, but I really do believe that. It was a really fun experience. There was a lot more publicity than people typically think for a Junior College. It was a great experience, but I’m glad I’m here. I think I made the right choice.”
Landon Brown is a freshman walk-on who has turned heads among the coaching staff in his ability to grasp the offense in such a short amount of time.
“(He’s) a kid from Oklahoma,” Coach Dailey said of Brown. “He’s done a great job, phenomenal job of coming in here and being able to pick up the protocol of the system, and then being really coach able. It’s been exciting to see him, just in a short period of time, being able to take some information and be able to execute it.”
It may be hard to believe, but the longest tenured quarterback on the Flames’ roster is redshirt-freshman Rud Yearick. Yearick enrolled at Liberty prior to the spring semester of 2016, and then red-shirted last year after Calvert won the backup job to Masha. He has been battling an injury during training camp, causing him to miss valuable reps.
“Yearick has been good,” Dailey said. “This will be his 2nd full season with us, and he’s done a good job of being a leader. I will say that about him, he’s done a good job of being a leader, and he’s shown us some glimpses here and there. For him, it continues to be a work in process.”
The final quarterback on the roster is David Jeremiah, his dad David also played at Liberty in the late 80s, and he is the grandson of pastor and author Dr. David Jeremiah.
“David Jeremiah, another walk-on, he’s been a blessing for our team just because he has valuable experience and insight,” Coach Dailey said. “He’s from out west so he has a different perspective, a little laid back, but he’s been good for us.”