The preseason hype continues to build for Liberty football and quarterback Malik Willis entering the 2021 season. ESPN‘s Chris Low spotlighted Willis as a breakout star to watch entering this season.

“If he were playing at Alabama, Ohio State or Clemson, Malik Willis would be one of the preseason favorites to win the Heisman Trophy,” Low said of Willis. “Well, he’s playing at Liberty and will be one of college football’s must-see players in 2021, especially with another year of development under coach Hugh Freeze.”

“Everywhere he’s been, Freeze has been able to get maximum production out of his quarterback, and the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Willis is Freeze’s most talented and most versatile QB yet,” Low continued. “A year ago, Willis rushed for 944 yards and 14 touchdowns, and opposing defenses simply couldn’t get him on the ground. He also passed for 2,260 yards and 20 touchdowns. And even though he only threw six interceptions in 2020, he’ll be even more polished and more decisive as a passer this season. Willis and Liberty both will be worth the price of admission in 2021.

Willis led Liberty to a 10-1 record in the shortened 2020 season, ending the year with a dramatic bowl victory over Coastal Carolina. Willis had 20 passing touchdowns and 13 rushing touchdowns this year as he now holds the Liberty school records for touchdowns in a season (33) and rushing yards in a season by a quarterback (855). He finished with 2,260 passing yards while completing 64.2% of his passes with a passer rating of 156.2.

He also helped lead Liberty to a pair of wins over ACC foes in Syracuse and in-state opponent Virginia Tech. The two wins made Liberty the first non-Power 5 team to post a pair of wins over ACC schools in the same season since Houston in 2015. Liberty finished the 2020 campaign ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the Amway Coaches Poll, the highest ever ranking for the Flames as an FBS program.

Liberty will open the 2021 season at home on Sept. 4 against Campbell. The Flames will host five more home games throughout the season: Old Dominion (Sept. 18), Middle Tennessee (Oct. 9), UMass (Oct. 30), Louisiana (Nov. 20), and Army (Nov. 27).