New Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze was not shy Friday when discussing his goal for the program, repeatedly mentioning that he wants to help guide the school to its first ever bowl game.
“I love a challenge,” Freeze said. “When I heard that this program had not gone to a bowl game, I don’t know why that triggered me. Not many people remember who was 2nd to things, but they remember who was first at things. I want to see the look on those kids’ eyes when they get invited to a bowl game. I want to see the excitement in the fans here. There are a lot of other things I want to see in this program, but that’s one. That challenge in itself really motivates me.”
2019 will be Liberty’s first season fully bowl eligible as the program has completed the 2 year transition process from the FCS ranks. Coach Freeze will take over a program with plenty of returning talent and experience. The Flames will return 15 starters from a team that won 6 games in its first season of FBS play. There will be 22 scholarship players that are seniors in 2019, the largest the program has seen perhaps ever.
Freeze is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in the college game today, as evidenced by nearly every power program in the southeast vying for his services as offensive coordinator.
“I’m not going to change what we’ve done offensively,” Freeze said about his offensive philosophy he brings to Liberty. “Everywhere I’ve been, it set records. We broke all the records at Arkansas State, Lambuth, and then at Ole Miss. Also, in a very difficult conference, probably in a conference where you would say we don’t have the exact talent that maybe some of the others do, but yet we were able to average 30, 35, 40 points in a given year. I just believe in it so strongly. I think (this system) is even better now. I can’t wait to try some of the things that I’ve been doodling on notepads for the past 2 years.”
Liberty returns the majority of its offensive weapons from a season that saw tremendous success on that side of the ball. Quarterback Buckshot Calvert, wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, and running back Frankie Hickson are just a few of the star studded offensive players that return. The Flames will also add the FCS leading rusher from 2017 in Maine transfer Josh Mack and Colorado transfer Johnny Huntley at wide receiver.
Freeze thinks he is a better coach than when he was forced to resign from Ole Miss and that his recent journey will help, not hinder, him on the recruiting trail.
“In my eyes, the past is the past and it’s time to move forward,” Freeze said. “I really think the story that I have is going to be beneficial to me in recruiting homes because you go into those homes, they’re all going to experience death, disease, disappointment. Now I have a story to tell, and let me tell you how I handled it, and not only that, now I work for a University and administration that believes in grace and mercy and love. You’ve gotta own it, and you may have some consequences, but you know what, they’re going to welcome you with open arms and we can move forward together. What family doesn’t want that for their son? And I’m a living testament of that.”
“Dr. Falwell’s vision was for Liberty football to compete with Notre Dame, USC, and Alabama,” athletic director Ian McCaw said. “Even though we’re one year into FBS, I think being able to hire a coach of Hugh Freeze’s stature does accelerate the process and makes us a very credible program that is going to gain national prominence through his hiring and get to bowl games very, very quickly.”
“A year ago, we were an FCS program,” McCaw continued, “and to today, being able to hire, not just an FBS coach, but a coach who has been at a Power 5 school, been in the SEC, the best conference in the country and has excelled in doing it, it’s really remarkable. It says a lot about the University and the football program, and it also says a lot about Coach Freeze. We’re confident we have just hired one of the best football coaches in the country.”