Liberty returns 10 starters from a 2020 offense that put up nearly 500 yards and 38 points per game, but that didn’t stop the Flames from looking to add additional firepower to its roster during the offseason. Hugh Freeze and the coaching staff targeted several prolific offensive weapons in the transfer portal, but there was just one running back that stood out.
“We watched a gamut of guys in the transfer portal, watched quite a bit,” running backs coach Bruce Johnson said. “One stuck out the most. As guys were getting added to other rosters at other schools, we were able to jump in on him and had to battle it out with some schools.”
That one he is talking about is former Utah running back TJ Green. The 5’11”, 200 pound back from Chandler, Arizona committed to the Flames after entering the transfer portal and enrolled at Liberty prior to the start of the spring semester. The former three-star rated prospect out of Chandler High School, Green appeared in 25 games at Utah over the past three seasons where he totaled 59 carries for 258 yards and 1 touchdowns in addition to four receptions for 15 yards. In 2019, Green played in 13 games, while recording 23 rush attempts for 68 yards and one touchdown.
“If you watched anything he did in the spring, you can see how explosive he is,” Johnson remarked.
Out of high school, Green also had offers from Oregon State, Boise State, Hawaii, and others. He rushed for 2,267 yards and 35 touchdowns on 247 carries as a senior for an average of 9.2 yards per rush and 151.1 yards per game. He also had 14 receptions for 278 yards and four touchdowns while helping lead Chandler High School in Chandler, Arizona to the 2016 6A state title. He scored three touchdowns with 233 rushing yards on 30 carries in the title game.
He’s looking to bring some of that explosiveness to a Liberty offense that features several weapons. Potential first round NFL Draft pick Malik Willis led the team in rushing a season ago from the quarterback position. Liberty also returns its leading running back in Joshua Mack who scampered for nearly 800 yards on the ground in 2020. The Flames also brings back the explosive Shedro Louis who broke out for 170 rushing yards at Syracuse.
“They’re great,” Green said of his teammates at running back. “They brought me into the room when I first got in, and they were welcoming with open hands and help me figure things out in the spring. We still do the same things. If I have trouble with something in practice, I’ll step aside. J-Mack may tell me something he’s seen. They definitely welcome me with open arms and help me become a better player.
In addition to Willis and the other running backs, Liberty will also feature weapons in the passing game like DJ Stubbs, Demario Douglas, Kevin Shaa, Noah Frith, CJ Daniels, and Johnny Huntley. The Flames bring back virtually every pass-receiving option, returning nine of the team’s top 10 receivers from the 2020 team.
“We have so many play makers across the board,” said Green. “We go out there and play as a team. There’s not so much pressure on one person. We all work together to make plays and everyone’s going to cheer each other on when everybody else makes plays. I feel like we’re a very unselfish team, and we like to see our teammates do better. I’m excited to play with these guys this fall, and I know we’re going to make a lot of plays.”
Green said it was an easy transition for him transferring in from Utah. The team welcomed him, and he was pleasantly surprised by Liberty’s facilities and resources. He’s not surprised the team has seen tremendous growth in recent seasons.
“Campus was the first thing I noticed when I landed,” he said. “I was like, wow, these facilities are nice. It’s really the whole campus. It’s not just the sports facilities, it’s the whole campus. The whole campus is very nice. Coming to a place where the team is such a big family, it made my transition easy. Everybody welcomes each other. It was a very smooth transition.”
Liberty is happy to have Green in their arsenal, as well, and hope the talented athlete can take its offense to an even higher level in 2021.
“He is a great asset to this football program and this offense,” said Johnson. “Really excited about watching him and seeing all the improvements we can make with him. He definitely has a tool set with the things he can do with his size and his speed.”