The Liberty football team welcomed over 30 newcomers to the first week of Fall Camp – and only 5 of them participated in spring drills. With about 30% of the team being new, one of the coaching staff’s first goals is to get their fresh faces to learn the system.
Helping the newcomers is that the majority of them have been on campus for 8 weeks this summer during conditioning. Typically, incoming players get about 3-4 weeks on campus prior to the start of camp, but this year they were able to arrive in June. In addition to allowing them the ability to get familiar with campus, the community, and their teammates, this time also afforded them the opportunity to begin learning the playbook.
“I’m pleased, no question about it, with their maturity, how they’re going about their business,” Coach Gill said of the newcomers. “(Having them on campus for 8 weeks) was a plus. We had 8 opportunities for video review with our players and coaches talking Xs and Os. That did help us to be ahead of the game as opposed to if they just got here. We’re seeing the results of some of that with the Junior College guys.”
One of those JUCO transfers who has benefited from being on campus since early June is safety Cheapell Morris.
“Morris has brought in intensity,” Defensive Coordinator Robert Wimberly said. “Most of the time when young men come from Junior College they definitely come with a level of expectation and willingness to work, and he’s shown that. What I love is how our group has embraced him, and he’s done a great job thus far. He still has a long way to go, but I’m excited where he’s at.”
Morris says it helped to start with Coach Bill Gillespie in the weight room this summer as he got acclimated to the Lynchburg heat and humidity. He’s still working on learning all the play calls, but he says he will be ready for the season opener. “I definitely will be ready for September 1st.”
Another JUCO transfer, Isaac Steele, says that the JUCO experience and his one season as a walk-on at Arizona has helped him adapt quicker. “I was able to use the practice experience, game speed, and more complex playbook than high school to give me an advantage coming in here.”
The returning players have also chipped in to help the newcomers learn, primarily by studying film and making sure everyone knows where they line up and know their cuts.
“The newcomers are getting acclimated to what we are doing,” returning safety Rion Davis said. “It’s starting to go smoother, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”