Liberty’s Javon Scruggs returns after starting 22 games over the past two seasons with playing time in 35 games during his three-year career. Last season, Scruggs led the team in tackles with 69 to go along with his 4 tackles flor loss, 2 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. The local product from Appomattox, Virginia has grown into not only one of the best players on the team but a team leader.
“He’s the leader of our defense,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said of Scruggs earlier this spring. “That’s the expectation, that’s what comes with his life right now and I think he’s embraced it. He’s done that every single day of spring ball. That’s what we talk about when we meet. While he’s not getting reps, he’s back there getting coaching, encouraging, and correcting. I’ve said it all along, the great teams have a coaching staff that are of one voice, but they also have players that are a voice in the locker room. I think that’s what we have in him.”
Alongside Scruggs, Liberty’s coaching staff has gone the transfer route over the past couple of seasons to boost the team’s production at the safety position. Juawan Treadwell came in from a JUCO prior to the 2020 season, and he became one of the defense’s better players, starting 9 games and finishing with 35 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. He spent a lot of his time at the hybrid safety/linebacker position the Flames have under defensive coordinator Scott Symons’ defense, as Liberty’s base defense has three safeties on the field.
Another transfer that will make an immediate impact this season at safety is Skyler Thomas who joins the program from Washington State where he was a starter in 12 games in 2019. He recorded 151 tackles and 6 interceptions in three seasons with the PAC-12 Cougars. Freeze couldn’t get Thomas’ name out of his mouth this spring, frequently talking about how much the veteran flashes at each and every practice. He’s spent a lot of time this spring at the hybrid safety position, and could be the team’s starter at that spot this fall.
Super senior Ben Alexander returns for his 6th season with the Flames. He’s the most experienced player in the position group and provides a veteran voice for all the newcomers at the position. Quinton Reese showed flashes during his true freshman campaign in 2020, playing in all 11 games including one start. He’s an athlete who has the skill-set to play at corner and was brought in on obvious passing situations and third downs many times last season.
Cedric Stone was a late addition to the team last year, joining in the fall as a transfer from Georgia State. He returns in 2021 as a super senior after appearing in 10 games for the Flames in 2020 while making 5 starts. It took Stone a few games to get his feet under him, but once he did he was a mainstay on the field and should make a big impact this season.
Jaylon Jimmerson and Rocket Rahimi joined Liberty this spring, Jimmerson transferring in from Incarnate Word and Rahimi coming in as a JUCO transfer. Jimmerson has three seasons of eligibility remaining after finishing his freshman season at the FCS school in Texas in 2019 where he was named a Freshman All-American honorable mention. He led the team with 4 interceptions while also playing a role in the return game. Rahimi comes to Liberty from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. As a freshman in 2019, he had 48 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Both Jimmerson and Rahimi had really good springs, according to Freeze, for what has become one of the deeper units on the team. It seems like we’ve said that several times this spring during this position outlooks.