We have officially entered the football offseason, and now we can begin our endless speculation on the 2021 version of the Liberty Flames.
Though we haven’t received official word from all of 2020’s seniors who could potentially stick around for another year per NCAA rules, it’s worth at least looking at the depth chart and roster as it stands right now. We’ve already taken a look at the offense and here we turn our focus to the defense and special teams. All years are just left in place from this past season since every player has another year of eligibility to work with now, even if it does count against scholarship counts.
Defensive End: Durrell Johnson (Jr.) | Aakil Washington (Fr.)
Johnson came in to help fill the shoes of LA Chargers’ defensive end Jessie Lemonier, and he did not disappoint. His ability to get into the opposition backfield is a game changer for the Flames’ defense. Washington showed a lot of promise as a true freshman, and he will only continue to improve.
Defensive Tackle: Elijah James (Sr.) | Kendy Charles (Fr.)
James is expected to return as he announced just prior to the regular season finale against UMass. He will long be removered for his right hand being able to get a piece of Coastal’s field goal in overtime in Liberty’s Cure Bowl win. The depth at this spot is a bit of a question mark following Austin Lewis’ transfer and Mason Wolk unlikely to return. In addition to Charles, keep an eye on William Green here.
Nose Guard: Ralfs Rusins (Sr.) | Henry Chibueze (RSo.)
We don’t know for sure if Rusins will come back, but he kind of hinted towards it during the season, and the Flames would certainly welcome him back as he’s been a key cog in the middle of that defensive front. After switching from the offensive line, Chibueze has become a strong player behind Rusins.
Defensive End: TreShaun Clark (So.) | Stephen Sings V (Fr.)
Clark is one of the better players on the team, and with he and Johnson anchoring the end spots, the Flames have one of the better tandem of defensive ends among all non-Power Five teams. Defensive line coach Josh Aldridge has so may options at defensive end. In addition to Johnson, Washington, and Clark, incoming freshman Khristian Zachary, the highest rated signee in school history, will also factor into the rotation.
The defensive line was a strong point of the defense in 2020, and with another year of experience and some additions, 2021’s group looks to be even stronger.
Mike LB: Rashaad Harding (RSr.) | Carl Poole (RFr.)
With Anthony Butler choosing to forego the 2021 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, the Flames will turn to Louisiana-Monroe grad transfer Rashaad Harding to anchor the linebacking corps next season.
Will LB: Aaron Pierre (RJr.) | Kaci Seegars (Fr.)
Pierre is a returning team captain and will be plugged as the starter here to begin the season, but he’s got a couple true freshmen nipping at his heels. Seegars is the former Texas A&M commit, and he and Ahmad Walker could both force playing time in 2021. Amarii Jenkins should be back after missing the 2020 season due to injury. Also, don’t forget about Tyren Dupree and Malik Caper, as the Flames’ suddenly have several options at linebacker.
CB: Chris Megginson (So.) | Jaylon Jimmerson (So.)
CB: Duron Lowe (RSr.) | Marcus Haskins (Jr.)
Lowe’s decision to join the Flames from UTEP changes the look of this room. In Lowe, Liberty adds a two-year starter in the Conference USA at corner. Now, the Flames have the ability to put Haskins at either safety or corner, wherever he could be best utilized. We know Dabney is transferring, but we haven’t heard from Jimmy Faulks yet. Based on all the newcomers to the position, he’s likely not returning. The Flames also welcome in Incarnate Word transfer Jaylon Jimmerson and 2020 true freshman Deon Biggins could be plugged in here as needed as well.
Rover: Javon Scruggs (Jr.) | Micah Glaize (So.)
Safety: Juawan Treadwell (Jr.) | Jerome Jolly (Fr.)
Free Safety: Skyler Thomas (Sr.) | Quinton Reese (Fr.)
Scruggs and Treadwell are two proven commodities and return as starters. Glaize and Jolly have both shown promise early in their career and provide great depth. Three seniors haven’t publicly made their decisions on whether they will return or not – Tim Kidd-Glass, Benjamin Alexander, and Cedric Stone. This depth chart assumes none of them return, but if any of them do the depth here becomes another position of strength. Thomas comes in from Washington State where he started 12 games in 2019. He will be an immediate impact player for the Flames.
Kicker: Alex Barbir (Sr.)
Punter: Aidan Alves (RJr.)
Long Snapper: Austin Mock (RJr.)
Holder: Aidan Alves (RJr.)
Kick Returner: Shedro Louis (So.)
Punt Returner: Demario Douglas (RFr.)
If Barbir returns, which he’s hinted toward, the Flames will return all of their specialists in 2021. We could also see Duron Lowe, who has two 100-yard kick returns for touchdown at UTEP, factor into the return game.