2010 Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Mike Brown will look to lead the Flames this year, spending much more time under center as the program's starting quarterback.
Throughout the month of August, LibertyFlames.com will be running previews of each position on the Flames' roster as part of its Countdown to Kickoff coverage, leading up to the home opener against St. Francis, Pa., on Sept. 4.
The web site's position previews start today with Liberty's quarterbacks. This key unit will be led by Mike Brown, the Big South's reigning Offensive Player of the Year. The junior is a two-time offensive team captain, who earned All-America honors last year. He is followed on the preseason depth chart by Tyler Brennan, Brian Hudson and Gabe Henderson.
Quarterbacks Head Football Coach Danny Rocco enters the 2010 season in quite a different position than he did coming into this time last year.
The 2008 squad finished the year ranked No. 17 in the country in scoring offense (33.67 points per game), but Rocco lost nearly 70 percent of the players who were responsible for that scoring average to graduation.
A younger roster looked ready to carry on the precedent set by their predecessors in 2009, although they remained untested and unproven. However, the new-look squad not only carried the baton handed to them, but they took it and proceeded to run to another level of play.
The Flames finished the 2009 season as the No. 1 scoring offense in FCS football, leading the nation by averaging 36.36 points per contest.
Because a youthful squad carried the load of offensive production, Liberty finds itself in a much different position coming into 2010. The Flames return 39 letterwinners from last year, including those who were responsible for 72 percent of Liberty's offensive prowess on its way to a third-straight league title.
Besides All-American kicker and new school and Big South leading scorer Matt Bevins, Mike Brown found himself second on Liberty's national-leading scoring list in 2009.
"As we look at our offensive roster, last year we led the country in scoring offense, which is as good as it gets," stated Rocco. "A lot of those components are back and they all start with our All-America candidate Mike Brown."
"Mike has already had an outstanding career for us here at Liberty," added Rocco. "He really shined last year as a multiple position athlete – receiver, kick returner, quarterback – he just had a phenomenal sophomore year."
During the summer months of 2009, Liberty was able to secure South Carolina transfer quarterback Tommy Beecher, who took a majority of the snaps for the Flames during the course of the season. Beecher threw for 1,700 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 154-of-227 passing attempts and helping the Flames set a new program record for team completion percentage (68.1).
Brown did see time under center in 2009, most notably in a key road victory at Lafayette after Beecher had suffered an injury the week prior against North Carolina Central.
Brown got his first collegiate start at quarterback against the Leopards and proceeded to lead the team to a win in stunning fashion. He completed 29-of-36 passing attempts for 242 yards, while also rushing for another 88 yards. His 330 yards of total offense helped the then sophomore earn multiple national offensive player of the week honors following the victory.
By year's end, Brown was tabbed the Big South Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the first sophomore to take home the honor in league history. He led the team with 60 receptions for 698 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 442 yards and nine touchdowns.
While under center, Brown completed 48-of-68 passing attempts for 427 yards, resulting in the fourth-best passing efficiency rating in program history (142.75). Brown played a part in 15 of the team's 48 total touchdowns in 2009, ranking second on the team in scoring (66 points).
With the graduation of Beecher, Brown will be taking much more of a full-time role as the Flames' primary signal caller. However, Rocco is quick to point out, do not count Brown out from still lining up at various positions in 2010.
"Mike will be more of a full-time quarterback for us this year, but that doesn't mean we will never line him up outside at wide receiver," commented Rocco. "We lined Tommy Beecher at receiver some times last year in some formations, but you can count on Mike Brown being the primary guy at the helm.
"Mike has really progressed in his confidence and his mastery of the passing game," continued Rocco. "He is such a dual threat athlete that he presents a lot of problems for the defense."
Brown's understudy in 2010 will be Tyler Brennan, who gained some experience in 2009, with much more on the horizon. Brennan, Hanna High School's all-time leading passer, saw action in five games last season, completing 9-of-16 passing attempts for 101 yards.
"We are very encouraged with what Tyler has shown us so far," remarked Rocco. "We are going to try to get him into every game this year. We want to give him a chance to get some playing time and give us a chance to move Mike Brown around."
Three and four deep on Liberty's quarterbacking charts will be Brian Hudson and Gabe Henderson. Hudson redshirted last year, while Henderson is a highly touted freshman, who reminds many on-lookers of Brown during his high school days.
"Brian Hudson has four years of eligibility after redshirting last season and he is coming off a very solid spring," commented Rocco. "Gabe Henderson will be coming in from Raleigh, N.C., and he is another dynamic athlete, just like Mike Brown. We look forward to getting him into our camp."
Quarterbacks at a Glance Front Runner Mike Brown (R-Jr., 6-0, 205) Contenders Tyler Brennan (R-So., 6-4, 215) Up-and-Comers Brian Hudson (R-Fr., 6-4, 205) Gabe Henderson (Fr., 5-11, 195)
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