#19 Liberty FCS Football 2017 Preview


Liberty Flames


Overall Rank: #19

#2 Big South

In a decimating move for the Big South and a thrilling move for Liberty, the Flames are moving up to the FBS level. But for now they are still in the Big South, yet are ineligible for a conference title and a spot in the playoffs. The Flames narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2016 following a home loss to Charleston Southern that left both teams atop the conference standings at 4-1. With not much to play for this year, Coach Turner Gill will hope to continue developing his talent and building for their FBS future.
2016 Record: 6-5, 4-1
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Turner Gill (35-25 at Liberty, 60-74 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Dailey
Defensive Coordinator: Robert Wimberly
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Carrington Mosley, RB, 663 yards
Passing: Stephen Calvert, QB, 1,931 yards
Receiving: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, 315 yards
Tackles: Juwan Wells, DE, 79
Sacks: Juwan Wells, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Chris Turner, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Todd Macon, RB Frankie Hickson, WR B.J. Farrow, OL Dontae Duff, LB Solomon McGinty, CB Corbin Jackson, K Alex Probert, P Trey Turner
Key Losses: WR Dante’ Shells, WR Zac Parker, TE Kendall Couamin, OL Lucas Holder, CB Tyrin Holloway, LB Dexter Robbins, LB Nick Newman, DB Alpha Jalloh, DL JaRon Greene
Quarterback Stephen Calvert had a very promising freshman campaign and his potential is growing by the day. He started the final seven games of the 2016 season and threw for 1,931 yards and 15 touchdowns. If he keeps growing as a decision maker, Calvert will successfully guide this team into the FBS as an upperclassman. For now, expect much bigger numbers from the 6-2 signal caller. He will need to find some new targets though with Dante’ Shells and Zac Parker moving on. B.J. Farrow, who caught 30 passes for 281 yards, and Antonio Gandy-Golden, who caught 20 passes for 315 yards, are a solid pair to build around. Gandy-Golden is a big 6-4 sophomore who could emerge as a big playmaker for the Flames. There is more young talent at running back with Frankie Hickson. He rushed for 450 yards as a freshman, but seniors Carrington Mosley and Todd Macon could again see a bulk of the carries. Coach Turner Gill has three proven running backs to work with and that will wear out the opposition sooner or later.
Defensive end Juwan Wells led the Flames with 79 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 11.0 tackles-for-loss and nine quarterback hurries during his impressive 2016 campaign. With some experience around him provided by Dia’Vante Brown and Tolen Avery, Liberty should continue to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That is good news for an experienced secondary that will take advantage of the pass rush and create turnovers. Chris Turner picked off three passes last year and Corbin Jackson is another experienced cornerback capable of making some big plays. Solomon McGinty intercepted two passes and forced three fumbles from his spur position. There are some holes to fill, especially at linebacker where Dexter Robbins and Nick Newman, who combined for 140 tackles, need to be replaced, but Coach Gill has options ready to play a bigger role in 2017.
The Bottom Line:
Liberty may not be eligible for a Big South title, but they can still play a big part in who wins the conference. They play all five of the other teams in the Big South and those will count towards the Big South standings. The big game is the season finale against Charleston Southern, but Liberty will also be looking forwarded to the season opener against Baylor, which is their only contest against an FBS team this year.
Projected Postseason: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 143.3 (73rd in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 205.3 (66, 2)
Total Offense: 348.5 (85, 5)
Scoring Offense: 27.5 (52, 3)
Rushing Defense: 219.5 (106, 4)
Pass Defense: 173.5 (13, 3)
Total Defense: 392.9 (65, 4)
Scoring Defense: 26.0 (49, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (37, 2)
Sacks: 1.27 (102, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.73 (92, 6)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#33 Keith Best
#36 D.J. Stubbs