One of the first calls Coach Freeze made after his press conference on Friday, December 7th when he was introduced as Liberty’s football coach was to Johnathan Bennett. The 3-star quarterback was committed to Coach Gill and the Flames, and Freeze wanted to ensure his commitment heading towards the December signing period.
Bennett, who had stated publicly he was enrolling at Liberty in January, recanted that statement after the coaching change. When Freeze spoke with him, he felt he was going to wait to enroll in the summer.
“At first,” Freeze said, “it was (he) may or may not sign in the early singing period and see what his options are, which I totally understand.”
Freeze set a plan to go in and convince Bennett not only to sign with the Flames in the early signing period, but for him to enroll with Liberty so he could be on campus for the spring workouts.
“There are a lot of things that get thrown around in recruiting, some true, some not true, some very skewed,” Freeze said about his pitch to Bennett. “One thing that you cannot argue with is what the Liberty mission is, what they felt when they were on campus, and you can’t argue with what stats say about someone’s offense or defense or receiving. You can’t argue with those things.”
“So, I just put a quick plan together of those things. Look, here’s what has happened, this is fact, and being very transparent about myself, about any questions that they might have, and understanding what this place is all about.”
Once Freeze got Bennett and his family to reaffirm their commitment to Liberty, he then tried to sell him on enrolling for the spring semester.
“Outlining for them what that extra spring does for a young man. While he’s a competitive dude, and probably would work on his own some, there is no way he can duplicate the work he will have here.”
But to play as a true freshman, Bennett would have to supplant rising senior and 3 year starter Buckshot Calvert who already owns most of the Liberty passing records including career passing yards and career touchdowns.
“The depth chart is etched in sand,” Freeze said. “I don’t have any preconceived notions. Obviously, I know of Buckshot, and I had a good conversation with him on the phone. He can spin it. I like that, but he’s like everyone else. He’s like me. I need someone to push me to be accountable at the highest standard that we set. I don’t know him well enough to say what he’s like in that regard. I know when we come back in January, he’s going to get stressed, and I think he will respond. I want him to. He’s a senior. He’s thrown for a lot of yards. So, you gotta say it’s his to lose, for sure.”
While it will be difficult for Bennett to beat out Buckshot as starter, he could likely be competing for the 2nd QB spot and have a chance to play in certain packages and situations.
“I’ve never been afraid to play a 2nd quarterback that may give you a different element to defend even if it’s 5 plays a game. The defense next week has to work on all of that. Anything I can do offensively that takes away from their prep time or limits it to where they have to do so many things to prepare for us is advantageous.”
Whether Bennett is able to convince Freeze he is worthy of playing time or not, he will get his opportunity. And coming in for the spring semester and spring workouts will only help the true freshman in his quest for playing time in 2019.
“I don’t know (what) our quarterback room really consists of right now,” Freeze continued. “Buckshot, but I do know Bennett can do some things too. You’re coming in with a new coach who’s offense fits you, and I have very little preconceived notions as to who the number 1 is. I might have an idea of who the 1 is in Buckshot, but, man, beyond that, I really don’t have an idea. You come out spring practice, and you learn all the terminology, all the verbiage, all the system, and you roll into fall camp you’re not a freshman anymore.”