On Thursday, Liberty head coach Jamey Chadwell met with the local media to discuss his 2023 signing class, including the addition of five signees in February and the addition of several transfer portal additions.
“After the first signing date and then trying to get a staff hired and do all those things. We had a lot of needs over that time frame, bringing in people midyear, also trying to hire a staff, and trying to identify who we lost, what we can do to try to bring some in. We feel really good about the young men we were able to bring in, especially the ones that were able to join us here in the mid-year.”
“We had some specific needs defensively that we needed to fill, still got some more that we need to. We need to pick up probably an additional receiver, probably a couple offensive linemen. We will continue to still work on that, this transfer signing day is over. It will open back up in March, obviously the portal opens back up. We will be in the market there to try to continue to build our roster.”
“We didn’t want to take some guys that might not be quite good enough just to fill a spot. We tried to be very strategic. If we didn’t think they were good enough to fit us, we didn’t want to take somebody just to take somebody. Really pleased with yesterday. We didn’t have many that we signed, but the ones that we did were very big for us and able to fit some needs, especially in the secondary and upfront in the defensive line, trying to replenish there.”
“Really excited about our young defensive linemen, we got a junior college transfer Bryan Whitehead and Larry Jones from Lakeland, Florida who we think has a chance to be really, really good, really special. A couple defensive backs, one from Coffeyville that has three years left and then another one from California that also has three years left. We tried to get some guys that had a lot of time left, but also had some playing experience. Really pleased with that.”
“Overall, we had 17 signees that joined us in January, 17. That’s been big as far as adding to a team. You lose your seniors and you lose some in the portal, so sometimes there it can be some slim pickings, not Slim Chickens, don’t get that confused there from campus dining. So, we were able to get that many in which has been big for us. They are obviously going through our offseason program now and also adding to the talent we already had here. We’ve got some good players in place. We lost some good players to graduation, obviously to other institutions, but I feel like we were able to get some Liberty people in here that fit our culture, what we’re about, that are able to go through spring and be able to fill. What we signed yesterday was a great piece for us, we’re going to keep recruiting through May so we can try to fill those OLine positions up that I said.”
HOW MUCH WAS DEFENSE A PRIORITY?
“That was big. I kept a couple of defensive coaches and they were in my ear, we need more players, we need more players. They know the team a little bit better than you do right now. With what we lost to graduation, to NFL opportunities, to the portal, there was some good needs there that we needed to try to fill. Also, you’re trying to fill, there’s another portal, so we might lose more guys after the spring. I’m not naive to that. We were trying to fill some spots where we might lose some people or potentially lose some people to make sure we already had somebody in place for that. As we identified, I think offensively we were able to hit a lot of the areas from the time period of December to the scholarships we had left from the previous staff. Obviously, we tried to hold onto as many of the commitments as we can. Then, over the January period we brought in some offensive players – two receivers, three running backs, offensive line. There’s still some more needs there, but defensively we really focused on taking guys that could come early, in January, and the ones that couldn’t did they have multiple years, not just two, we needed three plus years. Strategically wise that was our mindset. Hopefully they will play well.”
HOW MUCH DOES BEING A MISSION FIT INTO YOUR RECRUITING STRATEGY?
“That’s gotta be number one. Who you are as an institution, who you are as a coaching staff that has to be what you prioritize. We have a lot of things we can sell but it doesn’t matter if they’re not a fit for what we’re about and what we’re trying to do. We are upfront with everything that we do about who we are, why we do it, what you’re going to be a part of here, how we’re going to develop you. I think every program in America is going to develop you mentally, physically, socially, we obviously get to have the spiritual aspect we don’t have to hide from. We can be bold about it. As a coach, our coaching staff’s job is to help young people grow in all areas and help them become the man they are called to be. We’re not shy about that. I know a lot of the players that decided to join us that was something they wanted to be a part of, they wanted to grow in that aspect as well.”
HOW BIG OF AN ADDITION WAS LARRY JONES TO THE DL?
“Obviously, we had the three and all three of those high school guys that we signed they came in early. You can never have enough good defensive linemen. We play multiple fronts. He was somebody that we identified that we felt would fit what we’re doing. We had a previous relationship with him and his family. They felt really good about what we’re doing and Coach Magee, our defensive line coach who will be coaching him and that relationship has already formed. To get a young defensive lineman, they are hard to find. Developing them, somebody like him who has a lot of upside was big for us. To be able to do that, continue to build that, you win consistency and long term up front on both sides of the ball. I thought we did a really good job defensively on that. We signed four high school offensive linemen.”
11 OF 28 SIGNEES ARE ON THE LINE, IS THAT THE RATIO YOU WANT TO CONTINUE WITH?
“Well, obviously it’s where your scholarships fall, but sometimes you try and identify well maybe we sign one or two more if maybe we’re losing somebody or somebody has mentioned they are looking around. You have to play for that, that is part of it. Offensively, what we are planning for right now is this coming year we lose five super seniors on offensive line. That’s five offensive linemen in one class, that’s not typical. Then, by the way we also have two other spots that are available because we haven’t had them filled. I’m looking at potentially having seven spots to sign one position. You don’t want to do that next year, that’s why we’re trying to continue to build that this year so we offset that this year.”
THE TRANSFER WRs, SMITH AND ROGERS, WHAT DO THEY PROVIDE FOR YOU?
“We don’t have a lot of competition there right now. So, one, it brings some competition. Two you need some people who have played for conference championships and know what that’s like, played in some systems. It was huge for us to get some of those guys. If we didn’t have them come in, we’d only have about four healthy guys going through the spring. You can’t practice that way. They’ve been a great addition. They’ve done a great job so far in our offseason training program. We still need a younger person there. If you look at the depth chart there we’ve really got one redshirt-freshman and everybody else is very old in that room. We’ve got to develop some younger guys. Getting here late, you didn’t really have anybody there in the December signing period from the younger guys, so we won’t after some older guys for some immediate help. Then, here in January we ID’d some receivers that were freshmen either didn’t work out or maybe we thought somebody else was better. We’re still going to identify that going forward. Anytime you get anybody in mid-year, but a position of need like that is big.”
DO YOU THINK TREY LOWE WILL PROVIDE SOME DEPTH AT QB?
“Competition. We played a lot of quarterbacks last year. When you play a lot of quarterbacks sometimes that tells me that you don’t know who the guy is. For us, I wanted as much competition as possible in that room. We’ve obviously got a young quarterback coming in that doesn’t have any experience. I think anytime that you can bring in somebody that has played and has a chance to be a good player and somebody that has been through the ringer a little bit and that brings some competition, that helps the quarterbacks raise up their game and be consistent every day. We will go with that competition and see what we have and see what they’re capable of.”
WAS RUNNING BACK A POSITION OF NEED YOU IDENTIFIED?
“100%. We hadn’t signed a high school running back in four years, it was all transfers. We had two seniors. Malik Caper is a senior. Dae Dae could have two years left, but if he has another good year he’s going to try to keep playing. Shedro is really a receiver, we’re going to try to play at receiver more than running back. We didn’t have a lot of depth there. It was important for us to try to bring some guys in. Two running backs typically play quite a bit. To bring in three all in the mid-year was big to be able to go through our system. Dae Dae is obviously hurt so he won’t be able to go through the spring. We’re just really trying to play for the future, as well, and not just try to solely go out in the portal every year. You don’t want to do that, it’s not fun. Obviously, you have to do it in certain areas to try to catch up or whatever, but we’re trying to plan in two years and look at the roster and see who are we going to lose in two years and how can we offset it now to try not to make it as a big deal when it happens.”
SIMILAR AT TIGHT END WITH 3 NEWCOMERS IN THE CLASS?
“One, we needed a younger guy there, but also we do use quite a bit the two tight end sets. Like the guys that we inherited, they’ve played some football. They are pass catchers in some of those, so tried to bring in some true blockers and some of those things. Again, planning from a long term standpoint, who do we want to become offensively and what do we need there. Obviously we want to win big and and win right away but also set ourselves up to consistently compete for and win Conference USA championships.”
DO YOU FEEL BETTER IN THE SAFETY ROOM NOW?
“I don’t know what they look like. The coaches tell me they feel better, but I might get out there and say holy moly. But it was good to get some secondary help, that was one of the areas that we had identified we needed some help there. Obviously, defensive line we’re never going to pass up great defensive linemen. And just projecting there, really defensively I feel really good about the haul we brought in. I’d like to get one more linebacker if we can find one out there. We had a couple that we were on, just couldn’t work out. We will keep recruiting there.”
WHAT POSITIONS ARE YOU STILL LOOKING FOR?
“Linebacker, receiver, and ideally I’d probably take a couple OLinemen if I could get two if they have multiple years left to try to help there.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE ABOUT MARQUIS BELL?
“He plays both positions, he’s a corner but also can play some safety. We really identify guys that can play multiple positions back there where our defense is headed and what we’re trying to do back there. We want some guys that are a combo, a little bit of both. That and two, he’s four for three, so he has three years to play and a redshirt year. Third, he can come in midyear and really compete so he will be here and ready to rock and roll. Then, fourthly, he’s an unbelievable fit for us. Once we identified him and got to know his family, who he is, what he’s about and what his family is about. His mom is an actress by the way. If you watch Lifetime she is in some of those movies. An unbelievable fit for us, embraced what we’re about and wanted to be a part of that. He’s somebody that you feel has the talent to help you but also the intangibles, the character, the academics. That’s a win-win. That was a strong get for us.”
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO GET DONE IN THE SPRING?
“We are doing our CPR classes right now. CPR for us is coach and player relationships. Every week we are going to meet with individual coaches, position wise, and then coordinators with different people. I’ve met with everybody on the team this week just individually and also getting to know everybody off the field. We are doing that with people and trying to develop relationships there. I’ve been out in the weight room and seeing them work some. Now, that we’re done with recruiting we’ve got an opportunity to spend some time with them, watch them do some things, and then see what you have. I know we are going to have a team that will fight for each other. That’s what we want and that’s what we’re trying to identify right now, who are those guys. If you are in their seat, they’ve got something to prove too. They are hungry to prove what they can do. It will be a great spring for us to see what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of guys injured with previous injuries. There’s going to be some question marks as well with certain guys that we won’t know until the summer and fall. I think we’re starting spring March 8th. Looking forward to going through that.”
DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU WANT THE SPRING GAME TO LOOK?
“Typically, and we will see what we have health wise and some of those things, usually it is more of a one on one and two versus two type of deal and we don’t do a lot of special teams. In the past, I’ve done a draft and split the teams up. Sometimes, I’ve made it more like a practice. I think I’ll decide once we’re through spring and see if we need more situational stuff or do we need to lay the ball down and play a bit. I do know it will be great for our community to come out and see what the team is about, watch us run around and hopefully as we’re building our program they can see the foundation is growing it will be a good time for them to see what foundation we are laying.”
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU ENJOYED GOING TO OTHER LIBERTY SPORTING EVENTS?
“I enjoy watching sports period, no matter what they are. I’ve been to men’s basketball, women’s basketball, hockey. Hockey ruined my winning streak, so I’m a little disappointed in them. We were 2-0 at basketball. It’s awesome. I can’t wait to go watch some softball and everything else. I think it’s important to support each other. I think it’s important to support other student athletes on campus. I enjoy being around and being apart of the university. We have teams that play at a high level. I went over to track the other day and watched some track stuff going on. I enjoy being around and watching and being part of the university. It’s easy to sit in your office all day and say you got stuff to do, but if I can go enjoy some games I think it’s good.”
WHAT ARE THE EARLY RETURNS FROM OFFSEASON WORKOUTS WITH THE STRENGTH STAFF?
“I think it’s been good. You ask the players how it’s going in the weight room – oh it’s great, getting stronger. When we turn up the volume on them a little bit we will see what they say. I think one thing they have found in the short amount of time is we’re going to work, we’re going to be consistent in who we are and what we do. We are going to hold them to a standard, it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are a starter or not you are going to be held to that same standard. We are going to work on our core values system. Last week was competition, this week is discipline. We’re going through devotions about what this core value means Biblically. We are going through those things. If we can get buy-in to each other, buy-into the value system through out strength program, that’s where your foundation is built and through our CPR program. I think so far, so good. It’s great now because there’s no depth chart, there’s not tons of adversity so everyone thinks they’ve got a shot. Once adversity goes up and once the accountability is there, and playing starts then you have to see who is really bought in and who’s not. That will start in spring a little bit. Once you get through the summer and through the fall. Right now everybody seems to be headed in the right direction, but I know some people are just putting up a front. I’ve got to identify who they are and hopefully continue to build relationships with them and earn their trust and they understand why we’re doing what we do. We’re off to a good start. Honestly, with the ones we signed yesterday, we had going into that morning, we only had one of those. We got all the rest of them late that night or early that morning. It was toss up. To get that was big and it gave all the coaches a jolt of energy. You never know when you are late on things, it’s hard. You don’t want to take guys to take guys.”
DO YOU LIKE TO DO A DEPTH CHART IN THE SPRING TO SEE HOW GUYS RESPOND?
“I don’t know what anybody can do, personally. I told them in our first meeting, I don’t care what you did behind, we are all moving forward. The past is the past, whether you started or not. We are going to judge you based on what you do moving forward. For me, guys that are doing right, then I like those guys. The ones that aren’t, hey you got to pick this up if you’re going to be part of what we’re doing. That’s part of that accountability piece and part of the things we’re doing in competition with each team. 10 teams are competing right now in various things. We are learning how they compete in some of those things and who can you count on and who you can’t. Eventually we will learn who are ones and twos are. Right now, you can see them in the weight room and watch them for a few minutes. You can see somebody that is pushing themselves or somebody that is not, you can ID that. We will continue to find out who we can count on and trust as we continue to move forward.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE STAFF HAS MESHED SO FAR?
“Obviously, the ones that I’m familiar with and have worked with before, the transition from that standpoint has been good. It’s trying to figure out how the university operates. We’re still working through that. We know obviously with the staff that retained, I’ve spent time with them in December just trying to feel them out and them trying to feel me out. Now that we’re all here and they’re learning how we do things, it’s maybe different than what they did, not better, just different. We are growing and learning each other there. The ones that I worked with prior to or previously, obviously there is some consistency or continuity. Anything that I’m saying it’s not surprising them our CPR, our values, all that. They know. From that standpoint it has been pretty good. I think what’s helped defensively, even though I brought one guy and some analysts, everybody else is sort of new at least to me defensively. Because of the defensive line coach, Coach Magee, and our analysts they know when I’m saying things they know the expectations of what I’m trying to do. So they can help with the new guys in the transition. So far so good. Once we get into our conditioning program and some of the different things there, they are going to learn how I want to do things. We will talk through it. There is another step we have to go through. Recruiting was a new step for the guys. When we were out on the road in January. We are learning. They are learning. Once we’re through this spring, they will know how I expect to do things, that should help our transition into the fall.”
YOU HAVE 5 STRAIGHT MIDWEEK GAMES, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT HOW THAT TRANSITION WILL WORK?
“It’s unique, but the great thing about that is you’re on TV. So, you get an opportunity to be on TV. You get the chance to really get your program have some national recognition if you win. In 2021, six out of the 12 games we played were not Saturday. So, something that we’ve had some experience with. I think the Thursday-Tuesday, I’ve never experienced that. It will be an adjustment for our team. The hard part is what you want is you want to try to get into a rhythm and they know this is what we do. When you play those midweeks sometimes it throws it out but we will adjust to it. For having the chance to get on some national television is big. If we have to play in Russia to do that, we will play in Russia.”
“If we have to play in Russia to do that, we will play in Russia.”
LOL! I love it.
Looking forward to Spring ball, Go Flames!