On Wednesday, Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze successfully wrapped up a 2020 class which is by far the best in school history, for the second consecutive year.
Working with just two months left in the recruiting season after being hired in December 2018, Freeze and his staff still pulled together the best recruiting class in school history with the 2019 class that was comprised of one 4-star, nine 3-stars, and eight 2-star rated prospects.
Compare that to the 2020 class which has 13 3-stars and three 2-stars. The top five commitments of all time, according to 247Sports, are all Freeze commits.
“Liberty shows itself well,” Freeze said. “It’s a place where we feel like if we get young men with family on this campus, we’re going to be a tough school to beat.”
Of course, stars and ratings aren’t everything, and ultimately the quality of these most recent recruiting classes will show itself on the field, but the improvement on the recruiting trail over the past two seasons has been drastic.
247Sports currently ranks the Liberty 2020 class 98th nationally, up significantly from the 2019 class which finished 135. The 98th ranked class puts Liberty ahead of fellow independents Army (107), UConn (118), and New Mexico State (149), as well as long time Big South rival Coastal Carolina (113). Boise State is the highest ranked Group of Five team at 65.
Of the 23 signees added to the roster, six were defensive backs and five each from the offensive and defensive lines.
“Really pleased sitting here today,” said Freeze. “Really thrilled. I think we addressed every need with the exception of – we are definitely looking for another linebacker, possibly will take a long offensive tackle if one came available, but I don’t mind keeping (those two extra scholarships) either and being able to count back come the December signing period.”
On the offensive line, Ole Miss grad transfer Bryce Mathews will fight for the starting spot at right tackle immediately. Freeze also spoke very highly of Will Buchanan, saying that in 2 years he could be a “phenomenal offensive lineman.” Brian Hannibal was the highest rated offensive linemen in the class, and Freeze says he is one of the most athletic offensive linemen he saw on tape.
“Really excited about the class, real excited about that young defensive line class and what they’re going to bring to our program,” Freeze said.
In addition to JUCO transfer Durrell Johnson who will try to help fill the void left by the graduate of Jessie Lemonier, the Flames are also very high on Aakil Washington and Kendy Charles.
Freeze and his staff also utilized JUCO transfers once again, as Liberty has made them a regular staple over the past few seasons since the Flames announced its move to the FBS ranks. Defensive backs Juawan Treadwell and Marcus Haskins, defensive end Durrell Johnson, and wide receiver Jaivian Lofton all join the program from the JUCO ranks. All four are expected to compete for starting positions immediately.
The Flames also added three grad transfers, all of which will be immediately eligible. Quarterback Chris Ferguson, offensive tackle Bryce Mathews, and linebacker Anthony Butler should help plug gaps in their respective positions.
Eleven of the signees are midyear enrollees including JUCO transfers DB Juawan Treadwell, TE Trevor Hobbs, and DL Durrell Johnson, the grad transfers LB Anthony Butler, QB Chris Ferguson, and OL Bryce Mathews, and high school prospects OL Gage Bassham, OL Will Buchanan, DB Jerome Jolly, DL Karsen Perkins, and DB Louis Taylor.
“Biggest need, in my opinion, that we needed,” Freeze said of the linebacker room. “If you’re keeping track of where we are, we have two scholarships left. We’re keeping our eye out for maybe another linebacker if there’s one in the grad transfer market or just a transfer, we would certainly look at using one there.”
Butler is the only scholarship addition to the linebacker room, and he hasn’t played football since early September so it will take some time for him to get into game shape.
“We probably learned a few things,” Freeze said of his first full recruiting class at Liberty. “You don’t have to jump out too early for this place. We can recruit at a much higher level than probably anybody imagined in our first full year. I think that’s going to benefit us in the next recruiting cycle. We’re really thrilled.”