The Liberty football team has completed 11 practices as they continue to prepare for the 2016 season which kicks off in just 2 weeks. We spoke to a few players and head coach Turner Gill after practice today. Here are a few notes and quotes from that session.
There is no quarterback controversy.
In Monday’s media session, Coach Gill spoke very highly of true freshman Buckshot Calvert in his play in last Satuday’s scrimmage. It led many to wonder if there was a quarterback battle quietly brewing. Coach Gill quickly silenced that. “Stephon is going to be our starter going into this football game. That’s not going to change.”
With only 4 quarterbacks on the roster and 3 of them true freshmen, it leaves the team very thin at quarterback. Gill says the plan is still to redshirt either Calvert or Rudiger Yearick, but things can change, namely injuries. The team would like to have 3 quarterbacks active on game day. So, expect those 3 to be Masha, either Calvert or Yearick, and Spencer Jones. Still no official word on which one will be the backup or which one will be redshirted.
Masha was actually the main reason the coaching staff switched to an up-tempo, no huddle offense.
We’ve all heard the talk of the change in offensive philosophy since the conclusion of the 2015 season. Most assumed it was just a fresh change for a new offensive coordinator. “Stephon was the main reason we made the adjustment to go no huddle,” Gill told us today. As we discussed in a previous training camp update this month, Masha played some no huddle in high school, so, it’s something he’s very familiar and comfortable with.
Not being able to watch any practice, it’s been difficult to know exactly what the new offense will look like. There’s been plenty of talk about a hurried pace, running a lot of plays, and going no huddle. We’ve also heard the base look will be out of the spread. Multiple coaches and players have also mentioned how big a part conditioning will play in the offense.
“You have to be in great condition,” receivers coach Ron Brown said. “That’s what we talked to them all spring about. They were going to work their tails off this summer. The tempo is so much faster you have to be in great condition. We have to find some guys for depth, because you’re going to have to sub a bit just from all the running that they do.”
Doesn’t sound like much room for your traditional fullback, but Gill says fullback Thomas Kennedy is “going to be very instrumental” and will be a “key person in our offense.”
The receiving corps has the potential to be one of the best groups in school history.
Sure the Flames lost its most accomplished wide receiver in school history in Darrin Peterson, but Coach Gill says this year’s group of receivers will be as good as any that he’s had in his time at Liberty. Guys like B.J. Farrow, Dante Shells, Zac Parker, and Damian King provide experience. Gill says Farrow will be the go to guy, and he expects King to be “very, very exciting for us this year.”
It also sounds like true freshman Antonio Gandy-Golden will play this year. Coach Ron Brown says, “he’s been an exciting addition to our football team.” Gandy-Golden is a 6’4″, 200 pound receiver from Dallas, Georgia. He chose Liberty over offers from Elon, Mercer, Murray State, Kennesaw State, and Stanford and was a 2-star prospect according to Rivals.
The offensive line is banged up and very much a work in progress.
Projected starter at left guard, Michael Henderman, has been injured and not practicing. He is day to day and the coaching staff is hopeful he will be ready to go for Virginia Tech, but it is too early to tell for sure. Ben Fiordelise has injured his ankle and is out 4-5 weeks. Coach Wagner says the only guy currently playing his normal position is Tanner Hartman at left tackle.
The current starters are Hartman, Lucas Holder at left guard, Dontae Duff at center, Aharown Campbell at right guard, and Sam Isaacson at right tackle. Of course, that can and likely will change over the next two weeks. James Passmore and Julio Lozano also figure into the rotation.
“We have not solidified our o-line group yet”, Gill said. “That’s going to go all the way up until game week, it might not happen until game time as far as the starters.”
Probert responded well to a little added pressure.
Gill said he’s been looking for ways to add some pressure to Alex Probert’s kicking situations to try to simulate game-like conditions as best as he can for the true freshman. At the end of Thursday’s practice, he was called on for a 47-yard field goal try. If he made it, no one had to run. If he missed it, the entire team had to run. Probert came through for his teammates and made the field goal.
The Flames will scrimmage off-campus on Saturday.
As has been the case the past couple of seasons, Coach Gill has scheduled an off-campus scrimmage. The Flames will load up in buses to an unspecified location tomorrow. Gill has liked doing this because it simulates an away game atmosphere.
The focus has not shifted to Virginia Tech, yet.
Gill said the coaching staff hasn’t shifted their attention to Virginia Tech, yet, as he’s been focusing on his own team. He says next week they will begin to put in some specific schemes for the Hokies. This past week the focus was on situational drills such as 3rd downs, short yardage, goalline, being backed up in your negative 20, etc.