We continue our early spring position by position preview today with a look at Liberty’s running backs. If you missed our previous feature on the quarterbacks, you can go back and read that here.

Liberty’s running back room will look much different in 2023 than it did in 2022 as head coach Jamey Chadwell made it a priority to bring in some depth and increase the competition level at the position.

“We hadn’t signed a high school running back in four years, it was all transfers,” Chadwell said as he recapped his staff’s work in reshaping the running back room.

That is true as the Flames did not sign a high school running back during the entire four year tenure of former head coach Hugh Freeze. During that time, Liberty utilized the transfer portal bringing in guys like TJ Green and Dae Dae Hunter. The new staff signed Vaughn Blue out of high school and also added two Power Five transfers in Quinton Cooley and James Jointer, Jr.

That group joins a room that includes Dae Dae and Malik Caper. Shedro Louis has also been one of the team’s top running backs the past few seasons, but he is now expected to spend most of his time at wide receiver where he was originally recruited to play.

“We didn’t have a lot of depth there,” Chadwell said of his running backs. “It was important for us to try to bring some guys in. Two running backs typically play quite a bit. To bring in three all in the mid-year was big to be able to go through our system.

Hunter, who led the team in rushing a season ago with 854 yards and 8 touchdowns, is recovering from a leg injury that had him miss the end of the 2022 season. He is also expected to miss the spring and the team hopes to have him fully recovered by the start of the season.

Wake Forest transfer Quinton Cooley rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries in 2022. He finished his career as a Demon Deacon with 92 rushes, 371 yards and four scores over two seasons. A redshirt-sophomore, Cooley is originally from Bailey, NC where he attended Southern Nash High School.

He rushed for 3,058 yards and 49 touchdowns on 313 carries as a senior at Southern Nash High School in 2019. He ran for 100+ yards in 14 of 15 games played. The 5’9”, 213 lb. athlete was a three star prospect that signed with Wake Forest as part of the 2020 class.  He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Jointer was a freshman during the 2022 season, announcing his intentions to transfer from Arkansas in November. He played in just one game for the Razorbacks, recording three rushing attempts for nine yards against Auburn. He will have four years of eligibility remaining.

Jointer is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas where he was a three-star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class. He was rated as the No. 8 player in the state of Arkansas and the No. 49 running back in the class, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Playing at Little Rock Parkview High School, Jointer ran 183 times for 1,309 yards (7.2 ypc) and 16 touchdowns during his senior season. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards as a junior. Jointer chose Arkansas out of high school over offers from Florida State, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, and others.

Blue is a 5’10”, 180 pound running back from Oceanside Collegiate Academy in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. He was originally committed to Charlotte but decommitted from the 49ers following their coaching change. Blue also had offers from Coastal Carolina, Western Kentucky, and several FCS schools prior to committing to Charlotte this past summer. He is rated as a three-star prospect by On3Sports.

“We’re just really trying to play for the future, as well, and not just try to solely go out in the portal every year,” said Chadwell. “You don’t want to do that, it’s not fun. Obviously, you have to do it in certain areas to try to catch up or whatever, but we’re trying to plan in two years and look at the roster and see who are we going to lose in two years and how can we offset it now to try not to make it as a big deal when it happens.”

Cooley and Jointer should be able to immediately factor into the rotation at running back, allowing Hunter to take the time he needs to get back to 100%. Shedro Louis could also slide back to running back if needed while Malik Caper is a veteran that can add to the depth also. With all of these options, Chadwell and new running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Newland Isaac could opt to redshirt Blue to allow him time to adjust to the college game.