The Liberty football team began preparations for the 2018 schedule, its first as an FBS member, this past Saturday with the first of 15 spring practices. The team will have 3 practices a week until the conclusion of the spring session on March 15th.

This is much earlier for spring football than in recent history, such as last year’s spring session which ran from March 20th through April 20th. Two main factors for this switch was recruiting and injuries. April 15-May 31 is an evaluation period for rising seniors, which the Flames will take full advantage of now that they’re at the FBS level. Liberty has also suffered through numerous spring injuries to key players which resulted in them missing the entire season the following fall, or much of it. Finishing a month earlier, will allow the athletes more time to recover.

“April 15th, now that we’re FBS, that’s a huge date,” defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly said. “Believe me, I got it circled on the calendar. My wife has it circled on the calendar. The pool that we’re competing against is much larger, but we like our brand. We have to prepare ourselves to make sure we hit the ground running, whereas in times past, it was more like May.”

Due to the ongoing construction at Williams Stadium this off-season, there will be no spring game this year.

“We had to get mature quickly”

Speaking with Coach Wimberly for the first time since signing day, he echoed Coach Gill’s comments of needing to get more experienced in a hurry, especially on the defensive line.

“We knew early in the season last y ear that we had to address our D-Line,” Wimberly said. “We had to get mature quickly, that was our main objective in December. I felt like we had Christmas early when we landed Vince Elefante and Devin Pearson. You watch them practice and feel very confident that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Elefante and Pearson are two of the eight Junior College transfers Liberty brought in as part of the 2018 signing class. Elefante and Pearson, both defensive linemen, are enrolled at Liberty and participating in spring practice as well as JUCO wide receiver transfer Kevin Shaa and high school defensive back Hunter Goetz. Wimberly spoke highly of Goetz, as he had a pick-6 on his first day of spring practice.

Tillmon moved to linebacker

Rising junior Brandon Tillmon is listed as a linebacker on the spring roster, a move Wimberly said had been planned for some time.

“Brandon didn’t know this, but that was the plan since we recruited him,” Wimberly said. “Talking with his high school coach, who was the former head coach at Coastal Carolina, he always talked about that. He always said his best position would be outside linebacker. It was just a grooming process. Sooner than later we knew we needed to make that move, especially as we transition to FBS and the type of profile we’ll need at the safety position.”

Tillmon was Liberty’s 2nd leading tackler in 2017 with 60. He also had 2 interceptions, 1.5 tackles for loss, and half a sack as he started all 11 games in the Flames’ secondary.