Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday following his team’s win on Saturday at Western Kentucky to move to 1-0 on the 2020 season. The Flames are scheduled to host Florida International in the home opener at Williams Stadium this Saturday at 1 p.m.
Here’s everything Freeze had to say, beginning with his opening statement.
“Excited to be back home, particularly at 1-0. That was a big win for us on the road against a very mature, good, well coached Western Kentucky team. I thought our kids did a lot of good things in that game. There’s obviously some things we need to improve on from week one to week two as we anticipate a very good, athletic FIU team to come in here this Saturday.”
Do you have an advantage having played already while FIU hasn’t?
“You should know me well enough by now that I will give no credit or credence to that philosophy because that’s our status this week. So, I think it’s rubbish. I don’t know, is it an uncomfortable feeling to not have film on them from this year? Absolutely. Will there be probably more adjustments needing to be made against FIU? Yes. Transfer from Nebraska, transfer from Texas, transfer from Boise State, transfer from Georgia Tech, transfer from Arkansas, transfer from Georgia. New quarterback who is a dual threat. You don’t have any film on these guys that they have that have transferred in and that’s a significant amount of kids that they’re depending on who have transferred in. While I won’t give any credence to the fact that someone has an advantage on us, I will say it’s uncomfortable.”
How do you guard against a let down?
“Well, we will find out a lot about our team, for sure. My approach and our staff’s approach, I assure you, they won’t sense any let down from us. Hopefully we have some maturity that understands win, lose, or draw, the game is over from yesterday when we put it in the trash after I shared with them the truth of the game. That game is over. In the words of my friend Nick Saban, (being a favorite) is rat poison. We won’t let our kids, they won’t overlook anyone, I don’t think, I think we are mature enough in year two to understand that and they certainly shouldn’t. FIU has better athletes, probably, across the board than we have. So, there’s no way you should overlook it.”
Is there an injury update?
“Treatment yesterday. Peytton, I think he will be fine. CJ will be day to day. We didn’t lose anyone from the game, hopefully we will get a few back. Jimmy Faulks, maybe Isaiah Avery, Tim Kidd-Glass, Noah Frith we really need back. All of those will be possible as we move through the week to see, and hopefully CJ and Peytton will recover fast from their set backs.”
Three home games upcoming, is there a great opportunity to seize momentum early?
“We would never talk to them about any games beyond this week; however, they do know, from following us last year, most of you probably know I divide the season into different seasons. This is season one, it’s made up of 6 games, 3 of which are in a row at home, that we have to defend our home games. I thought we did a pretty nice job with that last year. They’ve heard that as I divided into them the big picture of how I break this season down. They won’t hear anything this week except we play at home against FIU, but I presented to them the schedule the last week of camp and here’s how I see the schedule breaking down. I’m very honest with our kids. I tell them this game is a game that’s winnable but we’ll have to play our best, this game we should win, or this game we should lose on paper. I tell our team all of that. I’m probably the only coach that does that, but I think our kids respect my transparency with them. I never say that we won’t win, but just say here’s what reality is and here’s what we have to do to change reality or keep the reality that we like.”
Talk about the play of Malik.
“I thought he played very solid for game one. When I look at the film, he certainly created some plays with his legs when things weren’t there, but the big thing to me, we knew he could do that, the big thing to me is how does he manage the operation of the normal things that should occur when the ball is snapped in our offense. I thought he graded out really well. He had five plays that I really complain about, that we’ve got to get corrected, that hurt us, out of the 80 or so we had, that’s a pretty good first outing. His decision making, outside of those plays, I thought was really, really good. It’s a good start for him. We didn’t throw the ball second half. I tried to manage the game, ended up being probably a little closer than it should have been. I thought he was very accurate in the first half for the most part, he had one really bad decision in the passing game. Then, he tried to force the ball in the end zone. We can’t do that in the tight red zone. Other than that, I thought he threw it pretty accurately too.”
Does Shedro Louis need more opportunities?
“Sure. I’d love to see Troy get some too. I have confidence in all four of those guys. I’ve said that from the start of camp. I will continue to say that. Running back is tough. We have four guys that I believe in strongly. I think all of them can make plays, and certainly Shedro proved he’s probably deserving of getting some more touches, but we knew that. It’s just a matter of trying to keep them fresh and do that. How that looks going forward is really hard to say because we do believe strongly in all of them.”
Is RB one of FIU’s deepest positions?
“It’s hard to say without film on them this year. I know Price is returning and then they have the Arkansas transfer in Williams. I can’t remember the other names. I’ve never played an FIU team that didn’t have great running backs. In South Florida, they’re going to have very good athletes on this football team. Running back and receiver, DBs, linebackers, D-Line. Maybe we can hope they’re O-Line is not as good as the rest of their team because the rest of their team I’m sure will be really solid. O-Line is the hardest position to field at any level. A lot of unknowns, I would think they are very deep at running back. I would believe that.”
How different will it be at home with only 1,000 fans?
“We will start preaching to our kids Tuesday that we create our own energy. Just like we did last week and just like practice. It will be like practicing in our stadium. We won’t change anything in preparation, but we will tell them what it will be like so there’s no surprises come Saturday. But it’s still our home field and it’s got to mean something to us. Hopefully the leadership of our team will understand that. When things are regurgitated that they hear from me and our staff in the locker room, that’s when you start having the chance to be a special team. We’ve got to depend on that at some point, and hopefully they will get the message loud and clear on that about us protecting our home and creating our own energy.”
Can you talk about the Created Equal sticker on the helmets.
“We had really three days of incredible discussion, open dialogue, raw, honest, with our entire team. The one thing I told them, and I’ve coached in places where we have dealt with racial insensitivity, injustice, so I have a little experience with that, and the one thing I told them is if it honors God, if it honors Liberty, even if it challenges Liberty, and if we can be united on it, then I’m all in for whatever you guys, as long as those three parameters are met, you’re going to have my support. I asked them to carefully consider those things.”
“We had a great dialogue about…everyone’s intentions are not exactly the same. We just need to be very honest and open and we want to create change. We want to help. We don’t want to add to the divisiveness or to anyone’s detriment. We want to build others up. We want to be an agent of change.”
“Then we divided up into our small groups, they came up with a whole list of things of their thoughts, of different things we can do to create change. I took all of that and compiled it and I came up with a creed of here’s what we say we believe, here’s what we say we want done, and then here are the action plan to accomplish those things. I presented it to our entire team and we did parliamentary procedure. We had a motion to accept, we had a second, then we had all in favor stand up, all opposed sit down. Once we say this is who we are, this is our message, that doesn’t mean you don’t have other things that you might want to partake in, but when we say we’re going to do this as a team, this is what we’re agreeing upon.”
“#CreatedEqually was the one we thought best represented what we believe, and how we want to go about changing things. We’ve got an action plan. We’ve already registered 100% of our team to vote, Angel Armies, we finally have it in Lynchburg where we’re going to actively make a difference in foster care and orphans in Lynchburg along with 8 other cities. We’ve got a whole list. We’re putting out a video series. We’re excited about us being unified in our approach to the racial insensitivity, injustice, and other issues. We’ve committed to talk about all of the issues going on. Real proud of our kids and how they handled that.”
What can you say about Aaron Pierre’s growth?
“Reaching kids is a mystery. I think being a coach today is you better be half psychologist, at least. I’m not great at that part of it all the time, initially. I tend to figure it out in time, maybe. I thought his body language was awful, I didn’t think he cared. I was hopeful he might transfer, except for the fact that we need numbers at linebacker. Then, I don’t know, something really happened in leading up to spring ball, in the 4 days we had to where I saw a different kid. It was a great honor to send him out as one of the captains Saturday. He’s earned that right. I think he’s a much more mature kid than I gave him credit for. Really happy that it worked out this way.”
Have you ever crossed paths with Butch Davis?
“Yeah, unfortunately we do. I think the world of Butch. When I say unfortunately we do, I coached his son for three years. Butch was out of coaching then and I let him hang around our program too much. I kind of regret that now. No, I have great respect for Butch. He’s one of the best to ever do it, cares about his kids, and he will have his squad prepared, I know. His son Drew played for me at Ole Miss and is now coaching with his dad there. I know him pretty well.”
2nd straight week you are coaching against a program that has an assistant that played for you, is that cool to see?
“It means I’m getting old, for sure, older. I’m really proud of those kids. I have Tanner Burns here with me, RJ Fleming, Ben Aigamaua, I knew all those kids were going to be great coaches. Dominique Bowman is doing well. Chaz Scales, Mark Kelly, Bo Wallace. Drew and Ryan, there’s no question, because they sat in the quarterback room. Ryan set in the quarterback room with me for two years because that’s when I coached the quarterbacks too. So, I knew that he had a lot of knowledge. Drew is the same. I wasn’t in the quarterback room as much then because Dan Werner had them, but there’s no question certainly somewhat advantageous for them to have sat in all of those meetings. I’m very proud of them. Took a picture with Ryan and my family and will do the same with Drew if he allows me to.”
What current players do you think will make good coaches?
“That’s a good one. Chris Ferguson jumps out at me. He might want to be a lawyer or something, I don’t know exactly what, but he would be a great coach. He’s got great wisdom, maturity, all of those things that you look for in it. I think Anthony Butler would be a good coach. I hate to single any of them out because some of them will get mad at me. There’s a lot of guys that are going to go into it for sure. Those are a couple that jump out at me.
Have any of them came to you asking advice about coaching?
“Not yet, but they will. They’ll start coming around. Jerome should be a coach too. I don’t know if he will but he would be very good at it also. They will start coming around when we start having those individual meetings with them and talking about what’s next for them. I hope most of them stay with me another year since this year doesn’t count so we can keep building this program.”
How would you grade the offensive line’s performance?
“There’s no question they answered (the call) Saturday. There’s no doubt. Averaging 6 yards per rush, controlled the line of scrimmage, controlled the clock. The stats on third down don’t look great for us, but to be very candid, I consider us to be 8 for 13 or something like that because on four of those, I knew I was going for it on 4th down. Didn’t really try or call something that would probably have better opportunity of getting the first on third. I thought our offensive line played extremely well. Hopefully they will build with a lot of confidence on that. We played a lot of kids. I think we played 11 kids there. That was good to see. I felt good about them all through camp.”
Because of the extra year with COVID does this change your plan with playing some of these guys?
“We’re going to play to win. We will play whoever. Obviously, you don’t have to worry about the four game burning a redshirt kid, which is good. That’s the only thing that would change though. We’re going to play whatever kids we think will give us an opportunity to win. You’re kind of limited on the road when you can’t take them all, but when you play at home you got kids that can dress that can play.”
Jacob Bodden got the start on Saturday what was your thoughts of his performance?
“I thought he graded out really well, most of our offensive lineman did. Really proud of him, think he’s worked really hard. Feel really good about that spot with him and Bounds and Maisen Knight all being at that left guard position.”