LIBERTY O-LINE NOT AT LAST YEAR’S LEVEL
Last season, Liberty was able to control the offensive line of scrimmage, and it led to the team being able to move the ball seemingly at well. In 2020, the Flames were ranked in the top 10 nationally with 252.4 yards rushing per game while averaging 5.7 yards per rush. Those numbers have dropped significantly so far this season, as Liberty is currently averaging 204.7 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry.
The struggles for the offensive line haven’t been limited to the run game, as Liberty has allowed 22 sacks in the first seven games of this season. Compare that to last year’s 22 sacks allowed over the entire 11-game schedule.
It was expected that the offensive line would be one of the strengths of the team this year as Liberty returned all five starters from a season ago as well as several key contributors off the bench that provided depth. Yes, the offensive line has fought through the injury bug at times this year, but over the past couple of weeks the line appears to be back to full strength.
“You know, I don’t know that we’ve ever just dominated a line of scrimmage,” Freeze said this week when asked about the offensive line. “I don’t think that’s who, we body blow, and then in the fourth quarter, we’ve had success. That’s who we are. I don’t know of many offensive lines today outside of the elite ones that can just dominate these defensive lines that you play. You’ve got to get the dirty 3 yards, 4 yards. We were very effective when we went with our tempo in the second half (against Monroe). That may be something that’s more advantageous for our OLine. I thought Monroe had a really good plan, and their kids played extremely hard. I probably got away from the run a little bit too early in this game, should have probably stuck with it more.”
FLAMES STILL BUILDING ROSTER UP
One thing that has been overlooked this season after Liberty’s impressive 10-1 outing last year, is how the Liberty football program is still working on building up its depth and talent level at the FBS level. Entering the 2020 season, the Flames were consistently ranked near the bottom of the 130-team FBS level. Thanks primarily to the coaching of Hugh Freeze and the sensational play of Malik Willis, the Flames skyrocketed up the national rankings last year and entering this season.
If you look over the past five years’ recruiting rankings, Liberty would rank near the bottom of the FBS from a talent perspective. Of course, recruiting rankings aren’t an exact science, but it gives us a good measuring stick. No, this doesn’t excuse for the loss to ULM, but it does prove the point that the Flames must treat each and every game like a toss-up.
“People don’t want to hear it, I’ve said it since I’ve been here – there’s very, very few times that we will take the field where our roster is better athletically than others,” said Freeze. “That’s just the truth. We may be better at certain spots, but we’re not good enough to not prepare and play at the level that we have to play to win games. It’s hard to win college football games. That was never more evident than Saturday evening when we certainly didn’t play our best.”
FREEZE TALKS ABOUT COACH O
Coach Freeze worked for Ed Orgeron when he was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-2007. Freeze was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator in Oxford from 2006-2007. Coach O is currently the head coach at LSU where it was announced this week he will not remain in Baton Rouge following the 2021 season. Freeze was asked about this decision, coming less than two years after Coach O won a national championship at LSU.
“It’s sad to say but nothing surprises me anymore in our profession,” said Freeze. “It’s an absolute incredible calling, but sometimes it is a terrible business. I don’t claim to know any of the details of what is going on at other programs, I’ve got my hands full here. I’m not sitting here saying I know everything. I don’t know what’s going on inside the walls and what the administration sees. I’m not at all saying someone is right or someone is wrong. There are so many things that should be important in the evaluation of coaches that sometimes aren’t because of probably the money that is being paid to us. We all know that when we sign up for it, but we’ve got a chance to make a difference in kid’s lives and that’s not going to keep your job anymore and I get that. So does Ed.”
Last week against UL-Monroe, Liberty was without the services of 12 players: P Aidan Alves, WRs Khaleb Coleman, Ahmad Jackson, and Jaivian Lofton, defensive linemen Durrell Johnson, Kendy Charles, Khristian Zachary, and Micaiah Overton, linebacker Jerome Jolly, Jr., safety Quinton Reese, and center John Kourtis. Additionally, wide receiver Demario Douglas was in uniform but did not play in the game last Saturday night.
Alves, Reese, and Kourtis are all long term injuries. Johnson had to have knee surgery and will be out for a period of time. It’s possible he could return as soon as the Ole Miss game. Coach Freeze mentioned that Charles and Zachary are day to day this week. Douglas was back at practice early this week, and he is trending towards playing provided he doesn’t have any additional setbacks.
Linebacker Ahmad Walker was extremely limited last week at ULM with an undisclosed injury. Freeze was asked about Walker’s availability this week.
“He’s better,” Freeze said of Walker. “It’s nothing serious other than just a lot of swelling that he’s dealing with every time he goes full speed. He certainly was not ready last week to play. You could tell it in the snaps he played. He’s much better this week, hopefully he will be good to go on Saturday.”