This is kind of the recurring theme of the team this season. Liberty must replace an all-time great at a particular position, this time we’re talking about Darrin Peterson and the wide receivers. Peterson concluded his Liberty career owning virtually every receiver record there is, and he’s currently in training camp with the Chicago Bears hoping to grab a roster spot.
So, where does that leave the Flames? Coach Gill says this group has the potential to be the best group, collectively, he’s had since he’s been at Liberty. Of course, there’s not that one go to guy that we’ve become accustomed to recently with the likes of Darrin Peterson and Chris Summers, but B.J. Farrow could develop into that type of threat.
“I think Farrow is definitely going to be a go to guy,” Gill said describing his redshirt sophomore. Farrow had 32 receptions for 448 yards last season, and, if he stays healthy, he could definitely compete with Petey’s records.
Wide receivers coach Ron Brown spoke very highly of Farrow. “B.J. is an outstanding football player. That’s a great way to say it. He’s not just a super receiver. He’s an outstanding football player. After he catches the ball he’s got tremendous transition to run with the football. He has the ability to break tackles and take away legs. He can be a great blocker. He’s strong. He has great leaping ability. He’s very, very sure handed. He’s a very intelligent football player. There’s a lot of things you can do with B.J. Farrow. He can play inside, he can play outside. You could play him on either side of the football. He’s a great football player.”
B.J. says that first year of playing college football will really help him this year. “I know what to look for now. I’m not young. I’m not going to be timid or nervous.”
One of the veterans returning is Zac Parker. Parker’s a guy that really broke onto the scene in 2015 finishing 2nd on the team in receiving and was named 2nd team Big South following the season. He was Liberty’s lone preseason selection on the All-Big South team this year. Though he’s listed as a senior, Parker is expected to get a year back that he missed in 2013. So, he is likely to be back in 2017.
“Zac has a lot of dog in him,” Coach Brown said. “He’s a feisty, tenacious type-football player. You want that kind of energy out of every one of your players. He plays with everything he’s got, every single day in practice. His effort is tremendous. He’s got really great speed. He can run. He can get down the field.”
Back for his 5th and final season, Dante Shells hopes to go out with a bang. He’s played in 35 games in his Liberty career, totaling over 1,400 receiving yards. “Dante can really run,” remarked Coach Brown. “We like to throw deep balls to him. He’s improved other areas of his game. He’s improving as a blocker. He’s improving as an intermediary route runner. He’s very sharp, a very smart football player, he knows what he’s doing. He’s a guy we really count on for experience.”
Damian King rounds out the group of returners as he saw playing time in 10 games as a true freshman last year. He finished the year with 18 receptions for 161 yards while also leading the team in kickoff returns and even completing 2 passes for touchdowns. Coach Gill has reference Damian on multiple occasions during the off-season as a guy that could be an explosive player in 2016.
Other receivers fighting for playing time include Marquis Fitzgerald, Kyle Carrington, and true freshmen Antonio Gandy-Golden and Lionell McConnell. Fitzgerald and Carrington have not seen much time at receiver, but hope to crack the rotation in 2016. Gandy-Golden seems to be the most likely of the two true freshmen to get playing time. Gill mentioned they hope to make a decision on him very soon.
“What I see out of him is what I saw out of high school, big, strong, physical, can get off the ground,” Brown said about Gandy-Golden. “(He) has very strong hands, has better quickness than everybody thinks he does. In high school, I think people were wondering just how fast is he. He’s very quick. He will surprise you with his speed. He has the great ability to go up and get the football, he’s going to be a great blocker. He’s been an exciting addition to our football team.”