The next team on our countdown is:
#8 Monmouth University
While most of Monmouth athletics are apart of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Monmouth football is an associate member of the Big South Conference. They are entering into the 3rd year of a 4-year agreement with the conference. The school is located in New Jersey, far outside of the geographical center of the Big South.
The Hawks finished last season with a 5-6 overall record and a 3-3 record in the Big South. One of those conference wins came against Liberty in mid-October as the Flames lost in overtime. This 3-3 record is an improvement from their first year in the Big South as they managed just one win. This was a result of better QB play and a consistent running game. QB Cody Williams had a great year for the Hawks, throwing for 1,868 yards and 12 touchdowns. Pair him with All-Big South selection RB Lavon Chaney and you have a threatening offense. Chaney, who led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, returns with much more experience. A good portion of their offensive production in the coming season will come from these two.
On the defensive side of the ball, All-Big South defensive end Darnell Leslie enters his senior year serving as a great force for the Hawks up front. They will be without a few important pieces though. Starters, CB Joe Johnson and LB John Sieczkowski, both graduated. This is a defense that allowed Liberty over 400 yards of offense last year, though they kept the Flames scoreless until the 4th quarter when both teams had a scoring spree. But thanks to a number of turnovers and Liberty’s lack of a run game, Monmouth got the win.
While this game has not been one of the more exciting ones on Liberty’s schedule the past 2 years, the match-up this season is one to look forward to.
Some other things to keep in mind:
This game sealed a disappointing season for the Flames last year. After dropping one to Gardner-Webb, this loss ended any playoff hopes Liberty had.
The Hawks will be much more confident in facing the Flames this year. Knowing they handled this team with the veteran talent it had last year, it is possible they come into Williams Stadium and win.
Players to watch:
QB Cody Williams-Considering his play last year, it is very possible Williams will be one of the top QBs in the Big South during the 2016 season.
S Mike Basile-Basile, who returns this season, was arguably the best defensive player for the Hawks last year. He led the team in tackles.