As Liberty finalizes its preparation for Saturday’s first road trip of the year as the Flames take on Troy Saturday night, head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media to give his final update prior to kickoff.

Earlier this week, Liberty quarterback Malik Willis mentioned that the offense still is a work in progress to get to where the team needs to be to have the type of success the Flames are hoping for this season. That was the main takeaway from Coach Freeze on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, it’s not where I want us to be,” he said of the offense. “We have not sustained any type of execution with intensity throughout practice. That doesn’t mean we’re not a good offense or not going to be a good offense. In order to improve, there is a standard to which you have to practice and hold everybody to that standard.”

“It’s almost like we have some arrogance about us. I don’t mean that we have a bunch of individuals that are arrogant. I mean it’s almost like the success we’ve experienced offensively has subconsciously made a group feel like, ‘Well, you know we will get to the game and one of our coaches will call the right play at the right time, or one of our athletes will run around and make a play, and we will find a way.’ Having that confidence that you will find a way is a good thing, but I’ve coached long enough to know that if you are not preparing the right way, and you are letting other things capture your focus other than the way we prepare, that’s a dangerous mentality and situation to put your self in, particularly playing the schedule with people like Troy on it.”

All offseason, Coach Freeze has stressed the importance of building a team culture to the point where the program can be successful year in and year out. He’s still working on getting the team to reach that standard each and every day in practice.

“The culture is not to the standard that I want it to be for us to prepare with intensity and effort and execution,” he explained. “It’s what we deal with in coaching kids. I’ve got to do a better job getting them to understand the standard we have to practice to continue to have the success that we want to have.”

“I put this on me and me alone,” he continued. “I have to do better, they do too, and I have to show them how or I have to make it hard enough on them to make them do it.”

Yes, Coach Freeze is frustrated with the team’s execution and intensity during practice this week, but he is also excited for the challenge that Troy represents for his team on Saturday. Earlier this week he called this game a true toss up. The Flames are currently listed as a 4 point favorite in most books, with some computer models picking the Trojans to pull the upset.

“You feel a lot more excited and hyped up when you feel like you’ve prepared properly,” he stated. “We’re not through. We’ve got all day today, all day tomorrow, and Saturday until 6 o’clock to continue to prepare and coach. Today was good. Today, our offense prepared like I want them to. We have to build on that throughout the rest of this day, tomorrow, and the rest of Saturday, but come game time, knowing that you have a toss-up game with a team that is very well coached and can beat you, is always exciting to test yourself in.”

The Flames struggled on special teams last week, most notably with Alex Barbir missing two kicks and Aidan Alves having a below average game. Freeze is hopeful that phase of the game will be improved this week after a solid week of practice.

“We don’t do (special teams) live too much (in practice), but I thought we kicked the ball well,” Freeze stated. “Hopefully that will translate into being as aggressive as we were in practice with the way we go about our job.”

There are some injuries and COVID concerns the team is facing. The Flames had several get banged up in the season opener against Campbell. WR Jaivian Lofton is questionable with a knee injury. Starting LG Damian Bounds is questionable with an ankle injury. CB Marcus Haskins (hamstring) and starting RT Cooper McCaw (unspecified) are doubtful.

  • Freeze did say that he expects WR Noah Frith to play this week after he returned to practice. Frith had surgery on a bone in his right hand during training camp and missed the season opener.
  • Reserve OL Bryce Mathews should be good to go after injuring his knee against Campbell.
  • CB Daijahn Anthony has also been cleared and is good to go.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got a few COVID issues, expect everybody does,” Freeze said but refusing to go into any details. “I’m not going to comment on COVID. I can’t control that. We have to test every week. We’ve been fortunate thus far, but I do expect it will affect your team in one way or another throughout this year whether you’ve had the vaccine or haven’t, and we’ve had some cases of both. It’s part of the world we live in. I can’t control it, but I’m not going to get into every week talking about exactly what that means this given week.”

Check our Liberty Football Notebook on Friday for a full injury report for this week.