We have officially entered the football offseason, and now we can begin our endless speculation on the 2021 version of the Liberty Flames. On Wednesday evening, we received official word on 16 Liberty football seniors who will return for the 2021 season. All years are just left in place from this past season since every player has another year of eligibility to work with now, even if it does count against scholarship counts.

Quarterback: Malik Willis (RJr.) | Johnathan Bennett  (RFr.)

Unlike a year ago, the Flames are set at quarterback with Willis returning. He’s now got one year as a starting college quarterback under his belt and the sky is the limit for his potential moving forward. After Chris Ferguson’s decision to transfer, Bennett becomes the heavy favorite to be the backup this coming season. Incoming true freshman Nate Hampton and freshman Sean Brown, who spent the 2020 season with the Flames, could both make a push as they continue to learn the offense.

Running Back: Joshua Mack (RSr.) | TJ Green (Jr.)

Senior Joshua Mack has announced he is coming back and Peytton Pickett has announced his decision to transfer, as we have some answers to what this room will look like in 2021. The Flames set a school record for rushing yards as a team in 2020 behind Willis, Mack, Pickett, and Shedro Louis. Green, the transfer from Utah, should be expected to be a plug and play guy in the rotation alongside Mack and Louis. Keep an eye on Troy Henderson and Frank Boyd to make a push to be included in the rotation.

Wide Receiver (X): CJ Yarbrough (RFr.) | Jaivian Lofton (Jr.)
Wide Receiver (Z): Noah Frith (RSo.) | Kevin Shaa (RSr.)
Wide Receiver (H): DJ Stubbs (Sr.) | Demario Douglas (RFr.)

With both Shaa and Stubbs returning to this group for the 2021 season, the receiver room has a chance to take a huge step forward next season. If Yarbrough, Frith, and Lofton can remain healthy, the Flames’ wide receiver group could see much improvement next season. One other name not mentioned on this depth chart who will make a big impact next season is current freshman CJ Daniels.

Tight End: Johnny Huntley (RSr.) | Jerome Jackson (RJr.)

With Huntley announcing his intentions to return in 2021, Liberty’s tight end group may be the deepest position on the team. Huntley and Jackson are both expected back, as is Michael Bollinger and Trevor Hobbs. Add in JUCO signee Stetson Moore, who the coaching staff is very high on, and the depth here is unreal.

Offensive Line
Left Tackle: Tristan Schultz (Sr.) | Ryan Eshleman (RSo.)
Left Guard: Jacob Bodden (RSo.) | Damian Bounds (RSr.)
Center: Thomas Sargeant (RSr.) | John Kourtis (RSo.)
Right Guard: Brendan Schlittler (RSo.) | Jonathan Graham (RSo.)
Right Tackle: Cooper McCaw (RJr.) | Bryce Mathews (Sr.)

All of the senior offensive linemen are returning with the exception of Maisen Knight, so this group should look pretty similar to what we saw in 2020, just another year of experience and of Coach Dom’s strength program. By the end of 2020, Bodden had pushed Bounds for his starting spot at left guard. That will be a fun battle to watch this summer. Having Sargeant back for his 5th season as starting center will obviously have a big impact.

Defensive End: Durrell Johnson (Jr.) | Aakil Washington (Fr.)

Johnson came in to help fill the shoes of LA Chargers’ defensive end Jessie Lemonier, and he did not disappoint. His ability to get into the opposition backfield is a game changer for the Flames’ defense. Washington showed a lot of promise as a true freshman, and he will only continue to improve.

Defensive Tackle: Elijah James (Sr.) | Kendy Charles (Fr.)

James returns and he will long be remembered for his right hand being able to get a piece of Coastal’s field goal in overtime in Liberty’s Cure Bowl win. The depth at this spot is a bit of a question mark following Austin Lewis’ transfer and Mason Wolk unlikely to return. In addition to Charles, keep an eye on William Green here.

Nose Guard: Ralfs Rusins (Sr.) | Henry Chibueze (RSo.)

Rusins is back and the Flames certainly welcome him back as he’s been a key cog in the middle of that defensive front. After switching from the offensive line, Chibueze has become a strong player behind Rusins.

Defensive End: TreShaun Clark (So.) | Stephen Sings V (Fr.)

Clark is one of the better players on the team, and with he and Johnson anchoring the end spots, the Flames have one of the better tandem of defensive ends among all non-Power Five teams. Defensive line coach Josh Aldridge has so may options at defensive end. In addition to Johnson, Washington, and Clark, incoming freshman Khristian Zachary, the highest rated signee in school history, will also factor into the rotation, as will returning senior Jayod Sanders.

The defensive line was a strong point of the defense in 2020, and with another year of experience and some additions, 2021’s group looks to be even stronger.

Mike LB: Rashaad Harding (RSr.) | Carl Poole (RFr.)

With Anthony Butler choosing to forego the 2021 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, the Flames will turn to Louisiana-Monroe grad transfer Rashaad Harding to anchor the linebacking corps next season.

Will LB: Aaron Pierre (RJr.) | Kaci Seegars (Fr.)

Pierre is a returning team captain and will be plugged as the starter here to begin the season, but he’s got a couple true freshmen nipping at his heels. Seegars is the former Texas A&M commit, and he and Ahmad Walker could both force playing time in 2021. Amarii Jenkins should be back after missing the 2020 season due to injury. Also, don’t forget about Tyren Dupree and Malik Caper, as the Flames’ suddenly have several options at linebacker.

CB: Chris Megginson (So.) | Jaylon Jimmerson (So.)
CB: Duron Lowe (RSr.) | Marcus Haskins (Jr.)

Lowe’s decision to join the Flames from UTEP changes the look of this room. In Lowe, Liberty adds a two-year starter in the Conference USA at corner. Now, the Flames have the ability to put Haskins at either safety or corner, wherever he could be best utilized. We know Dabney is transferring, and Jimmy Faulks will be returning. Quinton Reese could also be plugged in either at corner or a safety spot. The Flames also welcome in Incarnate Word transfer Jaylon Jimmerson and 2020 true freshman Deon Biggins could be plugged in here as needed as well.

Rover: Javon Scruggs (Jr.) | Micah Glaize (So.)
Safety: Juawan Treadwell (Jr.) | Jerome Jolly (Fr.)
Free Safety: Skyler Thomas (Sr.) | Cedric Stone (Sr.)

Scruggs and Treadwell are two proven commodities and return as starters. Glaize and Jolly have both shown promise early in their career and provide great depth. With Cedric Stone and Benjamin Alexander returning, the Flames have more depth than they’ve ever had at safety. Thomas comes in from Washington State where he started 12 games in 2019. He will be an immediate impact player for the Flames.

Kicker: Alex Barbir (Sr.)
Punter: Aidan Alves (RJr.)
Long Snapper: Austin Mock (RJr.)
Holder: Aidan Alves (RJr.)
Kick Returner: Shedro Louis (So.)
Punt Returner: Demario Douglas (RFr.)

Barbir is back, so the Flames will return all of their specialists in 2021. We could also see Duron Lowe, who has two 100-yard kick returns for touchdown at UTEP, factor into the return game.