Bill Durkin takes over as Liberty’s offensive line coach for the 2023 season, becoming the third coach of the position for the Flames in as many seasons. Part of Jamey Chadwell’s staff, Durkin inherits an offensive line that has two returning starters on its unit but will certainly be a work in progress during the spring.
It begins with redshirt-senior Brendan Schlittler who anchors the offensive line from his starting right guard spot. Schlittler has started all 26 games over the past two seasons and 36 games over the past three years, all coming at right guard. Now, he enters his final season on campus as a team leader.
The Flames also return X’Zauvea Gadlin, a transfer from Tulsa who became an invaluable piece on the offensive line in 2022. Gadlin started all 13 games for Liberty last season, including the 12 times at right tackle. He could be penciled in at the starter there once again entering 2023, but one of his strengths is his versatility. Gadlin could be placed at virtually any spot on the offensive line, wherever the coaching staff think he best helps the team. So, we could see him at right tackle, left guard, or even left tackle depending on how the rest of the line breaks down.
Behind those two starters, there are a few names that will likely emerge in prominent roles on the offensive line in 2023, whether as starters or as part of the rotation. Jonathan Graham is a veteran who has started 10 games in his Liberty career, including nine at left guard last season. He has played in 48 games during his time with the Flames. It is likely that Graham will be slotted as starting left guard to begin the season, but he could be moved to a different spot on the line depending on how the rest of the pieces fit.
John Kourtis has played in 35 games during his Liberty career, primarily at center. His first few seasons with the Flames, Kourtis was the primary backup to Thomas Sargeant at center. In 2022, Colorado State transfer Cam Reddy slid in as the starting center, and Kourtis continued to be the backup. Now, entering 2023, Kourtis will be the favorite to seize control as starting center or a spot at guard.
JUCO transfer Reggie Young joined the Flames prior to the 2022 season and was expected to factor into the rotation on the offensive line. He played in 8 games, primarily at tackle for the team last year. Young will have an opportunity to break in as a starter in 2023, most likely at either tackle position.
We should also see West Virginia transfer Jordan White get a crack at breaking into the lineup this spring. Originally from Largo, Maryland where he attended DeMatha Catholic, White played in 11 total games for the Mountaineers, seeing action at guard, right tackle, and center. He played 51 snaps in 2020 and then received a redshirt in 2021 after playing four games. He began spring practice working with the first team at center while Kourtis recovers from an injury.
This past season, as a redshirt-freshman, White played in four games, starting three, while missing a good portion of the year due to injury. White was a three-star recruit out of high school. He signed with WVU over offers from Maryland, LSU, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Virginia, Wisconsin, and others.
Another name that we could see break through for the Flames on the offensive line this year is Harrison Hayes. The previous coaching staff spoke very highly of Hayes throughout his time on the team. He has not been able to get consistent playing time to this point in his career, but that could change this coming season. Hayes could project as a tackle, and, if he develops quickly enough, could move to right tackle while Gadlin slides to left tackle, for example.
Others that could help provide depth for Liberty on the offensive line this coming season include Chase Mitchell and Brian Hannibal. Both have been on the team the past couple of seasons but have been relegated to reserve roles. Aaron Fenimore is also a true freshman that was recruited by Liberty’s new coaching staff when they were at Coastal Carolina and were able to get him to sing with the Flames. We could see Fenimore break into the two-deep for 2023.
Three other true freshmen have also join the roster in Austin Anderson, Tajh Boyd, and Cal Grubbs. Coach Chadwell has also mentioned the likelihood of bringing in additional offensive linemen through the spring transfer portal. Entering the spring though, the line is very much a work in progress. Following the 15 spring practices, we should have a much clearer picture of where things stand on the offensive line entering the summer.