Malik Willis continues to make national headlines each and every week as he prepares for the 2022 NFL Draft. The former Liberty quarterback is in contention to be the first quarterback taken off the board in this spring’s draft. For the past two years, the Flames had one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. Now, head coach Hugh Freeze and the Flames enter 2022 spring practice with a clear position battle to be QB1.
We’ve broken down the top four challengers to take the reigns earlier, but we will continue to take a peak behind the curtain as spring practice is set to begin. Johnathan Bennett has been in the program for three years and is the only quarterback in the room with any amount of significant playing time at Liberty. Transfer Charlie Brewer will also challenge for the spot as will redshirt-freshmen Kaidon Salter and Nate Hampton.
As the Flames prepare to kick off another spring camp on March 4, here is a look at the quarterback position:
Johnathan Bennett (R-Jr), Kaidon Salter (R-Fr), Nate Hampton (R-Fr), Will Bowers (R-So), Sean Brown (R-Fr)
The Buzz: Bennett has the experience factor, having been in the system for all three years under Coach Freeze. He spent the 2021 campaign as Malik’s backup, seeing time in nine games as he completed 15 of 33 passes for 299 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Bennett also had four carries for two yards.
He doesn’t have the same explosiveness as a runner as Willis, but Bennett provides a capable runner who showed poise in the pocket during his snaps in 2021. He entered the program as a highly rated recruit that first committed to former head coach Turner Gill, but stayed true to his word when Freeze took over. Now, he hopes to take a huge step forward during the spring and seize control of the quarterback battle.
Salter and Hampton are very talented, young quarterbacks who hope to make a push in the spring to continue to be considered as challengers. Salter transferred to Liberty this past summer after originally signing with Tennessee as a blue-chip prospect out of Texas. He redshirted last season, but saw playing time last year, when he completed 1 of 2 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown while also rushing five times for 53 yards. His skill-set is the closest to Willis among the group of challengers, but the biggest question for Salter will be if he has mastered the playbook yet.
At 6’6″, Hampton was also a highly rated recruit out of high school that signed with the Flames before redshirting last year. He also got into one game during his true freshman campaign, completed 1 of 4 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed four times for 30 yards.
Charlie Brewer (R-Sr)
In perhaps the biggest surprise of this past recruiting cycle, Freeze went out and got former Baylor and Utah quarterback Charlie Brewer. He started 39 games at Baylor from 2017-2020, helping the Bears to the Big 12 championship game in 2019. He still ranks second on their career list for passing yards with nearly 10,000 and with 65 passing touchdowns. He started three games at Utah in 2021, before being benched and entering the transfer portal. Alongside Bennett, Brewer is one of the favorites to win the starting job entering spring practice.
Malik Willis (207/399 for 2,857 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs; 197 carries for 878 yards, 13 TDs; 1 catch, 13 yards)