Following the conclusion of the 2021 season, Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze had to rework his defensive staff. Defensive coordinator Scott Symons had left to join SMU in the same position, and he took corner back coach Rickey Hunley with him.
Coach Freeze moved quickly to replace those two that had helped lead a resurgence in Liberty’s defense over the past three seasons. He promoted Josh Aldridge and Jack Curtis from position coaches to Co-Defensive Coordinators, while bringing in Darius Eubanks to coach the defensive backs and Jeremy Garrett for the defensive line.
“Jeremy Garrett, I’ve loved him for years,” Freeze said of his new defensive line coach shortly after he was hired earlier this year. “He’s one of mine, I feel like. I’ve always wanted to hire him when I got a chance, just didn’t know if I could convince him to leave the league, the NFL. Thrilled to have him, what a great mentor and coach he will be.”
Garrett comes to Liberty after spending the past two seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns where he was an assistant defensive line coach. Prior to his time in the NFL, Garrett was a defensive quality control coach in 2019 at Vanderbilt. He spent a number of years in the high school ranks, first with Southaven High School and then Ensworth High School. Garrett played his college ball at Ole Miss from 2005-2007 where he was recruited and coached by Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze.
“My relationship with Coach Freeze was important because it’s all about who you’re working with,” Garrett said of why he decided to leave the NFL for Liberty. “The job is always hard, but it’s about who you’re with. Coming from the NFL to this opportunity, this was the opportunity to work with my own group and work with people that I like and enjoy being around. To get the opportunity to do it at a school like Liberty where spiritually I can impact my guys as well as on the field, that all went into that decision. It was a tough decision because I enjoyed the guys I worked with in Cleveland and it was a really good job in the NFL, but, at the end of the day, the opportunity to get my own group and work with Coahc Freeze and this staff at this University was important to me.”
Aldridge spent the past three years as Liberty’s defensive line coach and has helped improve that unit from not having enough depth and high-end FBS talent to arguably the deepest and most talented position group on the team. With his promotion to Co-DC, Aldridge has also switch from coaching the defensive line to the linebackers. Garrett did not know Aldridge prior to coming to Liberty, but they both have very similar coaching philosophies when it comes to the defensive line, including the same verbiage which will help Liberty’s defensive front continue their ascension as one of the best outside of the Power Five.
“It’s good to come in with a group that has been taught the things in the run game that I want to teach,” said Garrett. “It makes a difference when I’m speaking the same language that they had the past few years. It’s a tribute to Coach Aldridge in recruiting those guys and also teaching those guys, that transition has been smooth.”
Garrett inherits a talented group led by defensive ends TreShaun Clark and Durrell Johnson. The Flames have been able to become a menace in getting in opposing team’s backfields and disrupting their offensive game plan. He hopes to be able to push the group forward.
His experience allows him to be able to relate to the players. Garrett is coming from the NFL, a level that all of his players are aspiring for. He also has previous college experience at Vanderbilt as well as from his playing days, and he also spent a long time in high school, knowing where these players have come from.
“That experience in itself doesn’t make me a great coach, it just makes me experienced,” said Garrett. “I have the experience to know what buttons to push and how to develop those guys and how to put that carrot in front of them to know they can be this good and show them things from the NFL.”
During the spring, Garrett is hoping to develop 8-10 guys that will be able to provide something on the field for the Flames in the fall. From Coach Aldridge’s work over the past few years, he has a solid foundation to build upon while working to push them all forward this month.
“I think it has been seamless,” said Co-DC and LB Coach Josh Aldridge. “I’ve told him, I think we’ve upgraded at D-Line Coach. I think he’s a great coach. I think he does a great job of connecting with the guys. When you can bring experience from the level that those guys are trying to play at, that brings tremendous value. I think we hit a home run there, for sure.”