Out of Liberty’s 13 listed wide receivers, there is only 1 senior and 9 are either freshmen or sophomores, making for a young room. Despite the youth, new wide receiver coach Kyle DeArmon is excited about his group’s potential. “We have a ton of young guys and only one senior in the whole group. The future is really bright, but we’re excited about this season and what these guys can accomplish.”
Coach DeArmon is looking to
WR #82 B.J. Farrow R-Junior 6’2″ 190 Lynchburg, VA
WR #11 Antonio Gandy-Golden Sophomore 6’4″ 200 Dallas, GA
WR #7 Damian King Junior 5’11” 175 St. Petersburg, FL
WR #87 Cephas Reddick R-Junior 5’8″ 175 Woodbridge, VA
WR #1 Marquis Fitzgerald Senior 6’1″ 190 Farmville, VA
WR #5 DJ Stubbs Freshman 5’9″ 175 Jacksonville, FL
WR #14 Lionell McConnell R-Freshman 5’10” 180 Allen, TX
WR #17 Khaleb Coleman Freshman 6’2″ 180 Washington, D.C.
WR #83 Josh Tully R-Sophomore 5’10” 175 Vancouver, WA
WR #16 Spencer Jones Sophomore 6’3″ 185 Nashville, TN
WR #86 Michael Chorowicz R-Freshman 5’10” 165 Kohler, WI
WR #2 Brett Bitter Freshman 6’2″ 170 Lutz, FL
WR #81 Justin Smalls Freshman 6’3″ 190 Morrisville, NC
veteran B.J. Farrow to lead this group of young, but talented receivers. He’s a redshirt-junior who has seen playing time in all 22 games in his first two seasons, including 21 starts. Last season, he was the team’s 2nd leading receiver with 30 receptions for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were down from his freshman season when he caught 32 balls for 448 yards. He’s focused on his technique and route-running during the off-season with hopes of having a stellar junior year.
“I always talk about this with BJ,” DeAarmon said, “he has to really focus on his technique every single play because we all know the type of athlete he is, to go up and get the football and catch any ball thrown in his area. If he really, really focuses on his technique and route-running, he can get open. If he doesn’t, then he will have more contested catches.”
Farrow is using his experience to help lead the rest of the group. “I know I’m probably the most experienced guy in our room. I just got to lead by example and let these younger guys follow me and (I will) show them how we work.”
Coach DeArmon also highlighted Damian King as a guy who has really stepped up and led the group of receivers, even saying he is taking control of the room.
“I’m really proud of Damian. (He) battled through some injuries last year, and has really improved this spring with his leadership and his catching radius and catching ability has just blossomed. He’s done a really good job about making contested catches. He’s a really smart player. I can put him anywhere on the field, we can change stuff up on the fly, his football IQ is great. I expect big things out of him.”
King is coming off an injury plagued 2016, where he played in just 6 games, making just 6 catches for 45 yards. As a true freshman in 2015, he played in 10 games and had 18 receptions for 161 yards while also making an impact as a returner.
Rounding out the group of the top returners is Antonio Gandy-Golden. Playing in all 11 games as a true freshman last year, AGG was second on the team with 315 receiving yards. He’s put on additional weight during the off-season, and will play much closer to 220 pounds than the 200 pounds he’s listed at. He draws a lot of comparisons on the team to Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones.
“He’s just a playmaker,” Farrow said of Antonio. “If the ball is in the air, he’s going to catch it. He can make big big plays. He’s a big guy for us.”
Gandy-Golden didn’t start playing competitive football until his 9th grade year, and it wasn’t until the end of his sophomore year that he began to grow into a receiver’s body. He says the game is starting to slow down for him. “From this year to last year, I feel like you will see a difference in game speed for me,” AGG said.
“It’s just growing his football knowledge, his football IQ,” DeArmon said of Gandy-Golden. “Last year, the plays that he made were just based off his talent. This year, I really want him to increase his football IQ, and just his ability to identify defenses and coverages. (Last year), there were a couple times where he would just run and he didn’t really understand it. So, really just increasing his football IQ, it will make him a really, really good player.”
A receiver who the coaches and players have been raving about all camp is Cephas Reddick. Reddick, who joined the team as a walk-on prior to the 2016 season, was awarded the Samkon Gado award for the most improved offensive player in the spring. From all of his hard work, he has found himself in Liberty’s top 4 at wideout. He played in 9 games last year, and recorded just 1 catch for 8 yards in the game against Jacksonville.
“I feel really comfortable about where he’s at in being able to play a significant role for us,” DeArmon said of Reddick.
Head Coach Turner Gill and DeArmon have both mentioned that they hope to be 6 deep at receiver so they can rotate guys in and out and keep them fresh at the end of games.
“We still have about a week and a half to two weeks to figure out those 6,” DeArmon stated. “I always tell them every day where we’re at. Right now, I feel really comfortable with 4 guys that we know can do it and the other 2 are really, really close. Then, as the season goes on, hopefully, we can push that number to 7 and 8 so that way we will have fresh legs in the 4th quarter and the 2nd half…Antonio, B.J., Damian, Cephas Reddick, those 4 I feel really good about now, and we’re still trying to find 2 that we are solid on, 2 more, 3 more”
A couple guys fighting to be included in the top 6 are Marquis Fitzgerald and D.J. Stubbs. Fitzgerald is the lone senior receiver and has played in 18 games in his Liberty career, hauling in a total of 6 catches for 113 yards. Meanwhile, Stubbs is a true freshman who has turned heads during his first month on campus.
“He’s done a really good job,” Coach DeArmon said. “D.J. is another guy who, the reason why he has been so successful is, because he’s so smart. He is unbelievably intelligent for a freshman that’s playing a position that moves so much. They can line up at so many different places at that position and he gets it. He asks great questions. He takes unbelievable notes. If you look at his notebook, his notes are just filled. He asks every question about all the different types of receivers. He sits right in front of me in our meeting room, asks a ton of questions, he’s really, really smart. God’s gifted him athletically, for sure. He can run, he’s elusive, and he can catch the football. So, he’s everything that we’re looking for in a wideout. We’re lucky to have him.”
JUCO transfer and running back Kentory Matthews has also spent time working in the slot early on during training camp while Khaleb Coleman and Lionell McConnell are hoping to force their way on to the field.
“They’ve had a good camp so far,” DeArmon said of the young Coleman and McConnell. “They’re coming along progressively well. We just need to see them be more consistent, understand the playbook, understand the concepts in what we’re trying to do offensively, and then just continue to be consistent and show us that they’re ready to play and deserve to be on the field.”