After inking 14 new recruits during the early December period, Flames Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze has spent the last few weeks working to complete his football coaching staff.
Having filled most of the positions, Freeze has announced his first full coaching staff at Liberty, which will lead the Flames during in 2019, Liberty's first season where it will be fully bowl eligible. Freeze will announce Liberty's football administrative staff at a later time.
The Flames hired Freeze on Dec. 7, 2018 as the program's ninth head coach, one week after Liberty completed its final season of a two-year FBS transition process.
"I'm excited to work alongside this impressive group of individuals as we look to lead Liberty to our first-ever bowl game appearance and win," said Freeze. "I am blessed to know a lot of outstanding coaches from around the country and these individuals will be tremendous mentors to the young men in our program. I believe this group will capture the hearts and minds of our young men, leading them with our core values of faith, attitude, mental toughness, integrity and love."
Freeze's coaching staff includes Kent Austin (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach), Maurice Harris (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach), Ben Aigamaua (Tight Ends Coach), Mike Brown (Running Backs Coach), Sam Gregg (Offensive Line), Scott Symons (Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach), Josh Aldridge (Defensive Line Coach), Rickey Hunley (Cornerbacks Coach), Kyle Pope (Linebackers), Tanner Burns (Special Team Coordinator) and Dominic Studzinski (Head Football Strength and Conditioning Coach).
Kent Austin – Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
Kent Austin brings over 30 years of playing and coaching success to Liberty Mountain where he will serve as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Austin has spent the last six seasons in the Canadian Football League, working as the head coach (2013-17), general manager (2013-15) and vice president of football operations (2013-18) for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He led the team to back-to-back Grey Cup finals in 2013 and 2014.
Austin has also served as a head coach at Cornell (2010-12) and the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders (2007), while working as an offensive coordinator at Ole Miss (2008-10) and Toronto Argonauts (2004-06).
Following a successful 11-year professional career, including 10 seasons in the CFL, Austin started his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach for the Ottawa Renegades in 2003.
Austin at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (Co-OC/QB) 2013-18 – Hamilton Tiger-Cats (HC, GM and VP of Football Ops) 2010-12 – Cornell (HC) 2008-10 – Ole Miss (OC) 2007 – Saskatchewan Roughriders (HC) 2004-06 – Toronto Argonauts (OC) 2003 – Ottawa Renegades (QB) Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration (Ole Miss, '85) Children: Kendall, Kassidy and Wesley Hometown: Natick, Mass.
Maurice Harris – Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach
Maurice Harris is working under head coach Hugh Freeze for the third time in his coaching career as he joins the Flames' coaching staff as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
Harris first worked for Freeze when Harris was coaching at his alma mater Arkansas State as a tight ends coach from 2008-11.
Harris followed Freeze to Ole Miss in 2012 and remained part of the Rebels' coaching staff the last seven seasons, working as a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
During his time at Ole Miss, Harris helped the tight ends play a part in the high-powered and up-tempo offensive style run by Freeze.
Additionally, Harris helped mold tight end Evan Engram into a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2017 after finishing his career with the Rebels with 2,320 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Engram, who finished his career with a school record 162 receptions, was a first-team All-American in 2016 and was awarded the Ozzie Newsome Award (nation's best tight end).
Harris also coached at Alabama State twice (2004-05 and 2007) and at Whitehaven High School in Memphis, Tenn. (1999-03), including three years as a head coach.
Harris at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (Co-OC/WR) 2012-18 – Ole Miss (TE/Rec. Coord.) 2008-11 – Arkansas State (TE) 2007 – Alabama State (OC/RB) 2006 – Ole Miss (Asst. AD for Internal Football Operations) 2004-05 – Alabama State (RB) 1999-03 – Whitehaven HS (Asst. Coach/HC) Education: Bachelor's degree in education (Arkansas State, '98) Wife: LaQuesha Children: Arami and Cortlynn Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Ben Aigamaua – Tight Ends Coach
Ben Aigamaua has been under head coach Hugh Freeze's tutelage in a variety of forms during his collegiate career, both as a player and coach.
Aigamaua played football at Lambuth from 2006-09, including the 2008 and 2009 seasons when Freeze was the program's head coach. Aigamaua was a starting defensive tackle for four years and served as team captain from 2007-09. He earned All Mid-South Conference honors in 2006 and 2007.
Aigamaua served as an offensive graduate assistant from July 2011 to May 2012 at Arkansas Tech. He also worked as a defensive graduate assistant at Lambuth from January 2010 to June 2011. While at Lambuth, Aigamaua also served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Aigamaua, who joins Liberty's staff as a tight ends coach, followed Freeze to Ole Miss and has been a part of the Rebels staff since 2012. During the span, he had worked in various roles, including offensive graduate assistant, player personnel analyst and an assistant athletic director for community relations.
Aigamaua at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (TE) 2012-18 – Ole Miss (GA, Community Relations) 2011 – Arkansas Tech (GA) 2010 – Lambuth (GA) Education: Bachelor's degree in sports management (Lambuth, '10) Wife: Kendra Children: Lily and Ben Hometown: Leone, American Samoa
Mike Brown – Running Backs Coach
Mike Brown joined Liberty's coaching staff during the summer of 2018 and will remain in his role at running backs coach under head coach Hugh Freeze.
Brown, a 2011 graduate of Liberty, returned to his alma mater last year to help the Flames during their final season of the FBS transition process. In his first year back on Liberty Mountain, Brown helped running back Frankie Hickson become the 15th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards (1,032) and earn Phil Steele All-Independent Team honors.
Brown had a stellar four-year career for the Flames and graduated with a degree in finance and a minor in coaching in 2011. During his time in a Liberty uniform, Brown was a two-time All-American, earning the honor at both wide receiver and quarterback.
Brown helped the Flames win three Big South Conference titles (2008, 2009 and 2010) before moving to the professional ranks and playing three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His graduating senior class posted the second-best, four-year win total in program history (33-12 overall, 20-3 in Big South play).
Brown at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2018-present – Liberty (RB) 2017 – Delaware (QC/RB) 2016 – Michigan (OA/RB) Education: Bachelor's degree in finance (Liberty, '11) Hometown: Charlottesville, Va.
Sam Gregg – Offensive Line
Sam Gregg, a veteran offensive coach for the last two decades, rounds out Liberty's offensive staff as the Flames' new offensive line coach.
Gregg comes to Liberty after having spent the previous five seasons (2014-18) as the offensive coordinator at West Georgia. Working alongside fellow coaching staff newcomers Josh Aldridge, Rickey Hunley and Scott Symons, Gregg helped West Georgia to back-to-back 12-win seasons, two NCAA Division II Super Region 2 titles and a Gulf South Conference crown.
Prior to his time in Carrollton, Ga., Gregg spent six seasons at West Alabama (2008-13), starting as an offensive line coach before he was promoted to offensive coordinator.
Gregg, who is a 2002 graduate of Murray State, started his coaching career as an defensive line coach at Itawamba Community College (2003), Southwest Baptist (2005-06) and Arkansas – Monticello (2007) and as a graduate assistant at Memphis (2004).
Gregg at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (OL) 2014-18 – West Georgia (OC) 2008-13 – West Alabama (OL/OC) 2007 – Arkansas – Monticello (OL) 2005-06 – Southwest Baptist (OL) 2004 – Memphis (GA) 2003 – Itawamba Community College (OL) Education: Bachelor's degree in physical education (Murray State, '02) Wife: Mandy Children: Britt Hometown: Amory, Miss.
Scott Symons – Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach
Scott Symons joins head coach Hugh Freeze's coaching staff as the Flames' new defensive coordinator and safeties coach, a role he has held at three previous stops in his career.
Symons comes to Liberty after spending the 2018 season as inside linebacker coach at Memphis, where he helped the Tigers advance to the Birmingham Bowl.
Prior to his one-year stint at Memphis, Symons served as defensive coordinator and safeties coach at West Georgia (2014-17). Working alongside fellow coaching staff newcomers Josh Aldridge, Rickey Hunley and Sam Gregg, Symons helped West Georgia to back-to-back 12-win seasons, two NCAA Division II Super Region 2 titles and a Gulf South Conference crown.
Symons started to hone his craft as the head of the defense at Arkansas Tech when he served as defensive coordinator in 2013.
Symons stared his coaching career at Harding, serving in a variety of roles as wide receivers coach, defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator from 2008-11. He also served as a defensive quality control staff member at Arkansas State in 2012.
Symons at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (DC/S) 2018 – Memphis (ILB) 2014-17 – West Georgia (DC/S) 2013 – Arkansas Tech (DC) 2012 – Arkansas State (Def. QC) 2008-11 – Harding (WR, DB, Co-DC and Rec. Coord.) Education: Bachelor's degree in history (Lindenwood, '08) Wife: Kristen Children: Peyton, Hudson and Rhett Hometown: Hurst, Texas
Josh Aldridge – Defensive Line Coach
Josh Aldridge, a William V. Campbell Trophy Award Semifinalist during his playing days at Harding, joins head coach Hugh Freeze's coaching staff as the defensive line coach.
Aldridge comes to Liberty after serving as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Lenoir-Rhyne during the 2018 season. The Bears posted a 12-2 record and ranked No. 1 in the country in turnovers caused and No. 9 in scoring defense, while advancing to the NCAA Division II Super Region 2 finals.
Prior to leading Lenoir-Rhyne's defense, Aldridge served as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at West Georgia (2014-17). Working alongside fellow coaching staff newcomers Sam Gregg, Rickey Hunley and Scott Symons, Aldridge helped West Georgia to back-to-back 12-win seasons, two NCAA Division II Super Region 2 titles and a Gulf South Conference crown.
Harding graduated from Harding in 2012 with a degree in social sciences, where he was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time All-Great American Conference honoree. He started his coaching career at Ouachita Baptist and Lindenwood in 2013.
Aldridge at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (DL) 2018 – Lenoir-Rhyne (DC/LB) 2014-17 – West Georgia (DL/Rec. Coord.) 2013 – Ouachita Baptist (DL) 2013 – Lindenwood (GA) Education: Bachelor's degree in social sciences (Harding, '12) Wife: Jessica Children: Braxton Hometown: Jackson, Tenn.
Rickey Hunley – Cornerbacks Coach
After helping Incarnate Word reach the NCAA FCS Playoffs during their second year of postseason eligibility, Rickey Hunley will be looking to help Liberty advance to its first-ever bowl game as Liberty's new cornerbacks coach.
During his one season at Incarnate Word, Hunley served as safeties coach and recruiting coordinator in 2018. After completing their transition process from Division II to the FCS level of Division I football, Hunley helped the Cardinals post a 6-2 record in conference play in 2018, capturing the Southland Conference title and earning a berth into the playoffs. Incarnate Word led the Southland Conference in turnovers gained (30 and No. 4 nationally.
Prior to his year at Incarnate Word, Hunley served as linebacker coach and special coordinator at West Georgia (2015-17). Working alongside fellow coaching staff newcomers John Aldrdige, Sam Gregg and Scott Symons, Hunley helped West Georgia to back-to-back 12-win seasons, two NCAA Division II Super Region 2 titles and a Gulf South Conference crown.
Hunley also spent four seasons at Southwest Baptist (2011-14), as well as time at Lindenwood (2012) and his alma mater Drake (2007-08). He broke into the coaching professional level at the high school level in Missouri (2010-11) and Iowa (2004-06) and served as an athletic academic coordinator at Iowa State from 2008-09.
Hunley at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (CB) 2018 – Incarnate Word (S/Rec. Coord.) 2015-17 – West Georgia (LB/ST Coord.) 2011-14 – Southwest Baptist (Sec., ST Coord., Rec. Coord.) 2012 – Lindenwood 2007-08 – Drake Education: Bachelor's degree in social sciences (Drake, '05) Wife: Nakisha Children: Taylor, Raegan and Kamyrn Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
Kyle Pope – Linebackers Coach
Kyle Pope, Liberty's new linebackers coach, brings experience at the highest level of collegiate football after spending the last two seasons at Alabama.
Pope served as a defensive line graduate assistant for Alabama during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, helping the Crimson Tide to back-to-back College Football Playoff national championship game appearances and the 2017 national title.
Pope has a familiarity with Liberty after he spent the 2016 season at Presbyterian as a defensive line coach.
Prior to coaching at Presbyterian, Pope served on staff at Holmes Community College as a defensive line coach and at West Alabama as an outside linebackers coach.
During his time at both Holmes and West Alabama, Pope was responsible for a number of different tasks on defense side of the ball, while also assisting with special teams at both stops. His duties included recruiting, breaking down opponents' film and preparing practice plans, while working to develop his student-athletes.
Pope graduated from Jacksonville State in May 2015 with a degree in exercise science and wellness with a concentration in human performance. He was a four-year player for the Gamecocks (2011-14), helping Jacksonville State to the NCAA FCS Playoffs in 2013 and 2014.
Pope at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (LB) 2017-18 – Alabama (GA) 2016 – Presbyterian (DL) 2016 – West Alabama (OLB) 2015 – Holmes CC (DL) Education: Bachelor's degree in exercise science and wellness (Jacksonville State, '15) Hometown: Sylacauga, Ala.
Tanner Burns – Special Teams Coordinator
Tanner Burns will make his collegiate coaching debut as the Ole Miss graduate has been named Liberty's new special teams coordinator.
Burns is familiar with the coaching role, having served as the quality control staff member for special teams at Arkansas for the last five seasons (2014-18).
Burns coached punter Toby Baker, a Ray Guy Award nominee in 2015 and 2016 and a Burlsworth Trophy semifinalist in 2016. Baker averaged 43.0 yards per punt across 27 games for the Razorbacks and boomed 27 punts of at least 50 yards and 45 of his attempts landed inside the 20-yard line.
In 2018, Connor Limpert was named to the Phil Steele Postseason SEC All-Conference third team after he knocked down 19-of-24 field goal attempts and was a perfect 29-of-29 on extra point attempts.
The Razorbacks also led the SEC in net punting average at 41.8 yards in 2016 and ranked No. 29 in the country in kickoff returns in 2018 (23.04 yards per return).
After graduating from Ole Miss in 2012 with a general studies major with minors in history, sociology and parks and rec management, Burns spent the 2013 as a special teams intern with the Oakland Raiders. As a team, Oakland ranked second in the AFC and tied for third in the NFL with an average of 47.8 yards per punt.
Burns at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-present – Liberty (ST Coord.) 2014-18 – Arkansas (Quality Control for Special Teams) 2013 – Oakland Raiders (NFL Intern – Special Teams) Education: Bachelor's degree in general studies (Ole Miss, '12) Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Dominic Studzinski – Football Head Strength and Conditioning Coach
Head Coach Hugh Freeze brings a familiar face with him to Liberty with the hire of Dominic Studzinski as his new football head strength and conditioning coach.
Prior to coming to Liberty, Studzinski served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ole Miss where he was hired during the spring of 2012. Studzinski helped Freeze's football teams advance to four bowls games, including victories in the BBVA Compass, Music City and Sugar Bowl games.
Prior to joining the staff at Ole Miss, Studzinski was at the University of Southern Mississippi. While at Southern Miss, Studzinski directed the strength and conditioning programs for the Lady Eagle volleyball and soccer teams. He also assisted with day-to-day weight room and on field operations for both the football and baseball programs. During the 2011 campaign the Golden Eagle football team had a remarkable season including a 12-win season and a Conference-USA Championship.
Prior to Southern Miss, he served a brief stint at Tulsa where he designed and implemented programs for the tennis, golf and cross country teams. With the Golden Hurricanes, he also assisted with football as well as all other Olympic sports.
Studzinski had also gained professional experience while working with Louisiana State University, the University of Norte Dame, and Augustana College (South Dakota). At each university, he assisted with day-to-day operations with their respected football programs as well as several Olympic sport programs.
A native of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, Studzinski attended the University of Sioux Falls, in South Dakota, where he earned his bachelor's degree in exercise science. He was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time All-American with the Cougar football program, while also winning two national championships. He went on to earn his Master's of Science in sport coaching education from Southern Miss.