It came as somewhat of a surprise when Liberty wide receiver Demario Douglas announced his intentions to forego his remaining eligibility and pursue and a career in the NFL. It is something that the coaching staff had been preparing for even despite the coaching change.

New Liberty head coach Jamey Chadwell and wide receivers coach Tony Washington will have to find a replacement for over 1300 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns that are departing, most of that attributed to Douglas. The Flames won’t have to do that with a bunch of new faces as there are several veterans returning to help offset the lost production including Noah Frith, CJ Yarbrough, CJ Daniels, and Treon Sibley. Add in Shedro Louis, who is expected to transition to wide receiver from running back, and there are several options that will help add value and depth at the position.

This group combined for 64 receptions last season, led by Frith’s 25 catches for 446 yards and a touchdown. Daniels only played in four games in 2022 as he redshirted while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last spring. Now, as we move towards the fall and the start of the 2023 season, he should be as close to fully recovered and should be able to have a much larger impact on the team this coming year more similar to what he did before the injury.

Still, despite those familiar names, there’s not a ton of depth at the position. Coach Chadwell and his staff targeted several receivers, both in the portal and out of high school, as a part of this past signing class. The Flames connected on two of them, West Virginia transfer Reese Smith and Louisiana transfer Errol Rogers.

“We don’t have a lot of competition there right now,” Chadwell said of his receivers and bringing in Smith and Rogers. “So, one, it brings some competition. Two you need some people who have played for conference championships and know what that’s like, played in some systems. It was huge for us to get some of those guys. If we didn’t have them come in, we’d only have about four healthy guys going through the spring. You can’t practice that way. They’ve been a great addition. They’ve done a great job so far in our off-season training program.”

Rogers played three seasons for the Ragin’ Cajuns where he caught 59 passes for 524 yards and 2 touchdowns during his time in Louisiana. He played high school football at Lafayette Christian Academy in Louisiana, the same high school that produced Liberty safety Brylan Green. The 5’11”, 196 pound receiver has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Smith, a 5’10”, 187 pound receiver, caught 19 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown in 2022 for the Mountaineers. He was used as both a wideout and a punt returner during his time with West Virginia. Originally from Danville, Kentucky, he appeared in 33 games and caught two touchdown passes over his career in Morgantown. Smith is a possession-type receiver that should make a big impact for the Flames in the slot this coming season.

Behind this group of veterans, including the two transfers, Liberty is extremely thin at the receiver spot. Kylen Austin, a slot receiver, is a redshirt-sophomore while Markel Fortenberry, a lanky outside threat, is a redshirt-freshman. The rest of the receivers are upperclassmen.

“We still need a younger person there,” said Chadwell. “If you look at the depth chart there we’ve really got one redshirt-freshman and everybody else is very old in that room. We’ve got to develop some younger guys. Getting here late, you didn’t really have anybody there in the December signing period from the younger guys, so we won’t after some older guys for some immediate help. Then, here in January we ID’d some receivers that were freshmen either didn’t work out or maybe we thought somebody else was better. We’re still going to identify that going forward.”

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