Game week has finally arrived as the Liberty Flames are set to open the 2021 season amid much hype and expectation. The season and home opener is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff on ESPN3 against the Campbell Camels. Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media for his weekly press conference on Monday and here is everything he had to say beginning with his opening statement.
“We are excited it’s finally game week,” he said. “I think probably every program can share that sentiment that it’s time to play and find out what you have and how well you’ve prepared and all of those things. We are excited. We had our team meeting this morning. I taught our normal Monday class, and introduced our thoughts for the week. I think our kids are excited to be playing. We are glad to be home. We certainly hope that our student body will come out and pack our stands along with our fans and make it a very difficult atmosphere for the opposing team that comes in here. We have a great student body. Our band is incredible. We want the full school spirit to show up Saturday night and I know they will.”
ARE YOU EXPECTING EVERYONE WHO WAS OUT LAST WEEK BACK FOR THE OPENER?
“Noah is probably a game two or three deal. John Kourtis, not sure on the timetable for his. Daijahn Anthony is still not quite ready. I think other than those three we will hopefully have everybody ready.”
KAIDON SALTER MENTIONED HE IS ELIGIBLE THIS SEASON, WHERE DOES HE STAND IN THE QB ROOM?
“We only found that out last week, so he’s certainly not as ready as you would want him to be to take significant snaps. I hope we have some more time before we throw him in the fire, for sure. We’re excited that he is eligible and we can start getting him some reps to get him ready. Hopefully Malik has a healthy year and JB will be ready to go should we need him on Saturday night.”
YOU HAVE EXPRESSED INTEREST ABOUT BEING IN THE LOOP ON CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT, FOR LONG-TERM, DO YOU THINK JOINING A CONFERENCE IS INEVITABLE?
“I don’t remember saying I want in the loop, I know Ian is in the loop. I trust him and our administration with all that. I’d rather not have that on my plate right now. To say that we would have an interest, I know that we are all on the same page. If it makes sense for Liberty and our program, certainly we would welcome those conversations. Whether it’s a Power Five, obviously that would be nice, but there’s some really good Group of Five conferences also that could make sense. I really stay out of a lot of that. I know if Ian has something that I need to know that he will pass it on to me.”
HOW IS THE ENERGY AND THE VIBE NOW THAT YOU ARE IN A GAME WEEK?
“I said last week I thought that week three with the start of classes and really the third week of camp, I think that’s the most difficult week. Some time around the middle of week two to that week three, you’re drained, you’re physically tired, you’re hurting, and there’s really nothing to look forward to on that weekend. Now, that’s different. I hope that our work was gone about in the right way in our preparation, but there’s no doubt this morning it’s a different feel. The mock game we had Saturday night, we’re still going to be 0-0 after that one, but this one is going to be real come Saturday. When we gather the next Monday, like I told them this morning, Monday will be about the truth of what happened that Saturday evening and it will be real. I think everyone is excited just for the opportunity to get out and play.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE OF CAMPBELL ON TAPE LAST YEAR?
“It’s a nervous opener for me. I mean that. I watched how athletic, big and physical they are. They played App State, I think it was 28 seconds left in the first half and they are up in the game, could have easily won the Georgia Southern game. We know how athletic they are. Played Coastal as well as a lot of teams did. Played and scored points on Wake Forest. It’s a nervous team for me. Then, they have 7 alone just on defense FBS transfers from Penn State, FIU – we know the kid from FIU, we played him last year he is a heck of a player – ODU, Wake Forest, and South Alabama. They’ve got linebackers and DBs and D-Linemen that transferred from FBS programs, 7 of them to add to a team that has every starter returning. It’s nervous to me. Their quarterback is a heck of an athlete. He’s hard to contain. He can throw and run it. Their receivers and tight ends are solid, solid players. O-Line is huge. I think they average like 6’5″, 325, and have everybody returning there also. Mike does a great job. He’s built that program since the return of football and has done a really, really nice job there. The sample size is pretty small for them last year having only played the FBS opponents, but I thought they competed extremely well. It’s not a comfortable opening game in my eyes in any way. We’re going to have to play really well. You never feel like you know a lot about your team until you get to play some games. It appears to me that it could be a game that we’re going to have to play really well to have control of it.”
MIKE MINTER HAS SOME HISTORY AT LIBERTY, WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM AND WHAT HAS HE DONE AT CAMPBELL?
“I don’t have a deep relationship with Mike, but I have great respect for him, just the type of man he is and the way his kids play speaks volumes to me. They play really hard for him, they are a disciplined team. I think he’s done a heck of a job in building that program pretty much from scratch, I believe. He’s made them very, very competitive. I think Mike has done a heck of a job along with his staff.”
HOW IS YOUR TEAM LOOKING TO BUILD OFF LAST YEAR?
“For the last time, I won’t say this again to our kids, I did this morning in kinda recapping camp and stuff, but it’s time for us to flip the script from the 2020 season. It has nothing to do with this season. Zero. Anybody that conditions their mind to think that it might will be sorely disappointed. This is a whole new DNA, a whole new target on us. There’s no way that success breeds guaranteed success from year to year. You have to go earn it. It starts with Campbell Saturday night. It won’t be given to us. It will be a fight. We will have to earn it by executing better and doing the little things like taking care of the football and winning critical downs like 3rd and 4th downs on both sides of the ball and playing with poise and discipline. That’s how you’re going to have success in 2021. Last year has in my mind zero to do with whether or not we are going to win games this year.”
HOW IMPORTANT ARE SOME FRESHMEN GOING TO BE IN PROVIDING DEPTH?
“Well, I think it is a little early to tell. I’m excited about that freshman class. Would you like to play them in 4 games and be able to save them? Sure. Who really knows? Ahmad’s going to play. He’s one of our better linebackers, he’s going to play. Khristian can absolutely play, but we kinda have some depth there, so we will try to do what’s best. Not real concerned about whether we redshirt him or not, I think he will probably have to play. Corner, we’ll see how it goes, but Amarian has done really well for a freshman, excited. Offensively, we have everybody returning. Could Harrison see some action and Adair? Yes. Will it be more than 4 games? It’s too early to tell.”
“Can’t wait. Should be exciting to have some people back in the stands, looking forward to our home opener, for sure. Appreciate all you do to cover us and promote our kids and program, thank you guys.”