Anytime there’s a quarterback competition it gets a lot of attention, and for the first time in 4 years, Liberty has a quarterback competition. Buckshot Calvert’s streak of 43 consecutive starts will come to an end when the Flames open the 2020 season at Virginia Tech, but who will be Liberty’s new signal caller?
“There’s an excitement for me,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said when asked about the quarterback competition. “Listen, Buckshot, the records are what they are, the numbers are what they are. You can’t make them up, they are what they are and we’re losing a lot of production from him. He can make every throw on the field. He got better as a senior, which is what you want. As a quarterback, led us to our first bowl, first bowl win, that will never be forgotten, but for me as a coach, I’m not forgetting Buckshot and I’m pulling for him, but my mind immediately switches to – we got to get another one ready. That’s the way I approach it. It excites me. Can we do it with another one? Can we do it with whoever earns it, Malik, Chris, JB, whoever it is? Can we get it done with another one? That is always exciting to me.”
Liberty added three quarterbacks in the 2020 signing class to an already crowded room. The Flames will enter spring practice with 9 QBs on the roster – Malik Willis, Johnathan Bennett, Brandon Robinson, Landon Brown, Will Bowers, Henry Van Dellen, Sean Brown, Chris Ferguson, and RJ Glod.
Redshirt-junior and Auburn transfer Malik Willis is the early favorite to win the job. After sitting out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer requirements after his waiver was denied, the former SEC quarterback will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. A 3-star dual-threat prospect out of high school, Willis was the Tigers’ backup QB during his true freshman and sophomore seasons. The 6’1”, 195 pound native of Roswell High School and Atlanta, Georgia, Willis played in 15 games at Auburn, throwing for 69 yards and 1 touchdown while also rushing for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns. Willis saw playing time against the Flames in Auburn’s win over Liberty this past season, even rushing for a 16-yard score.
Bringing in Maine grad transfer Chris Ferguson came as a surprise to many, but the former starter at the FCS school will fight for reps. He started 6 games at Maine in 2019 before suffering a season-ending foot injury on a QB sneak against Richmond Oct 12 that he’s still recovering from. Prior to his injury, Ferguson threw for 1,655 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Had Ferguson not been injured, he likely would have started against the Flames in Lynchburg the following week. Liberty is hopeful he will be a full go when spring practice opens.
Johnathan Bennett is coming off a redshirt freshman campaign at Liberty where he suffered a freak injury celebrating a Brandon Robinson touchdown against Hampton on Sept. 21. Prior to his injury, Bennett served as the backup quarterback behind Buckshot Calvert. He will miss the beginning of spring practice as he recovers from his knee injury, but Freeze and the staff is hopeful he can return the final two weeks of spring practice.
“With Malik (Willis) being here, Chris (Ferguson) provides very good competition which I love,” said Freeze. “Some people don’t care for it. You’re in the wrong place if you’re not wanting to compete. I think it makes us all better. Really excited about the depth and competition we’ve been able to create there.”