Macon out for season
Redshirt-senior Todd Macon injured his knee last week during practice, he will need surgery, and will be out for the rest of the season. The injury occurred to the same knee which was injured during spring practice that caused him to miss the first 4 games of 2017. Since he has already used a redshirt year, Macon is not eligible for a medical redshirt, bringing his Liberty career to an end. Macon played in 3 games this season and had 48 rushing yards on 13 carries in 2017 and has 1,258 career rushing yards during his time with the Flames.
“Last week, (he) caught a pass, started running, nobody hit him, just running, he said he felt it pop,” Coach Gill said. “Tough, tough deal there when a young man is not able to play football his senior year.”
Storey benched, Mitchell gets nod
After getting the start for the first 6 games of the season, Greg Storey was a late scratch from the Monmouth game two weeks ago. He actually didn’t even make the trip to New Jersey. Then, just a few minutes prior to kickoff against Gardner-Webb this past week, Storey was a late scratch in the starting lineup. He did, however, play some against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Storey has 14 tackles in 7 games played this year after he converted from offensive line to defensive line prior to the 2016 season.
When asked if this switch was due to injury, Coach Gill said, “(It’s) more of a mindset, as far as him (Storey) ready to go and production, a combination of both. We feel like Elisha Mitchell improved in his play. We think he’s going to have a better upside here, hopefully, over the next 2 to 3 ball games. Gregg Storey is still in the mix. We’re going to rotate them around, and if he earns more playing time, we’ll play him.”
True freshman Elisha Mitchell started both games for Storey, and he has recorded 12 tackles so far this season.
“He’s starting to make plays,” defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly said of Mitchell. “For him, right now. he’s not playing like a true freshman anymore. His communication level has risen tremendously. His football IQ has risen. That’s a credit to Coach Singletary.”
In each of the previous 2 games, Liberty has missed an extra point early in the game, and Coach Gill has elected to try a 2 point conversion to get attempt to get that point back.
“It’s from an analytical perspective,” Gill said of his decision to go for 2 in certain situations. “Everyone of us coaches, high school, college, pro, it doesn’t matter, we all have a chart that we use. We look at the scoreboard, if the chart says a certain amount of points you go for one if you’re a certain amount of points behind or ahead, it doesn’t matter, it goes both ways, and you go by the chart. I’m going to say 98% of the time, I’m going to go by the chart. I think the only time I may not go with what the chart says, it would be possibly early in the football game, the first quarter, the score may be a little bit weird looking, and I just say, ‘hey, we’re going to go ahead and go for it – in the first quarter – go ahead and go for the kick versus saying go for the 2 points.”
Trash can ignites turnovers
After struggling through the majority of the season in forcing turnovers, Liberty’s coaching staff instituted a unique motivation tactic to help entice the defense to improve in forcing turnovers.
“We incorporated a trash can on the sideline,” Gill explained. “If a guy gets a turnover, he has an opportunity to get a ball and put it in the trash can and put his signature on it when he gets the ball. We’re just trying to do something to emphasize it a little bit more, being more on our players minds, defensive players. Sometimes, in today’s society, you have to do a few little things to continue to keep them excited. So, that’s kind of a few things we’ve done there on the sideline to keep them engaged.”
It seems as if it has worked as the team has forced 5 turnovers and scored 27 points off those turnovers in the past 2 games. In the first 6 games of the season, Liberty had forced just 7 turnovers and had scored 17 points off turnovers.
“Just trying to bring some excitement that would address the area we need to improve on with turnovers,” Wimberly said of the new trash can on the sidelines. “Since that time, we have been able to create turnovers. You’re dealing with young men you try to find different ways to motivate them. You see it in practice, you just see the mindset. It’s amazing what really gets them going and gets them excited to address an issue that we knew we had to address.”