Tommy Shaver will be looking to keep Liberty's strong tight end tradition going during the 2010 season.
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 continue today with a look at Liberty's tight ends and fullbacks. Last year, the tight ends stepped and became a larger part of Liberty's scoring threat, helping the Flames finish the season ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring offense. The Flames fullbacks continued pave the way for Liberty's running backs, helping the Flames finished 2009 with 31 rushing touchdowns. Tight Ends/Fullbacks The last five years, Liberty has produced five-straight Big South all-conference tight ends, with most of these players being honored for their blocking efforts in Liberty's potent rushing attack. From 2005 to 2008, Liberty averaged 169.3 receiving yards per season from its tight ends, while scoring four total touchdowns during the four-year span. Chris Luck was a three-time league honoree, while Corey Rasberry took home second-team Big South honors in 2008. Midway through the 2009 campaign, Liberty's "Y" players looked like they were going to have to once again depend on their blocking efforts to continue the award trend. Following the first six games, Liberty's tight ends had accumulated three total receptions for 20 yards. However, a six-yard scoring strike from Mike Brown to Will Quarles with 3:40 left in the fourth quarter lifted the Flames to a 20-13 Big South road win over Charleston Southern. The six-yard strike also turned the fate of the position. During the next four games, Liberty's tight ends became key targets for Brown and senior quarterback Tommy Beecher. Quarles would catch three more scoring passes, including two against Presbyterian, while Tommy Shaver picked up his first career touchdown reception when Beecher found Shaver open for a five-yard pass in a road win at Gardner-Webb. Quarles finished the year with nine receptions for 116 yards and four touchdowns, which helped him keep Liberty's tight end tradition alive when he was named to the Big South second-team all-conference squad. Shaver followed with three catches for 35 yards, including the five-yard scoring strike against Gardner-Webb. Quarles has graduated and has passed the position's baton now on to Shaver. "Tommy is another junior in our program with a lot of potential," stated Rocco. "He is long and runs well after catching the football. He is physical at the point of attack and Tommy comes into the year as our starting tight end." Also looking for playing time behind Shaver at this position will be Matthias Wrede and Steven Wilkes. "Matthias will be a senior and has added great depth to our program during the last few years," continued Rocco. "He is very dedicated and a hard worker. He has a good size body and is more of a ‘point of attack' blocker. "We've moved Steven from defensive end to tight end this past spring. He has a big body and is a dual threat, both as a receiver and as a blocker." Liberty's tight ends have found a way to draw notoriety and garner accolades from the Big South; however, the Flames' true unsung heroes of its rushing attack have gone relatively unnoticed by most. Rocco is not among that group, as he is quick to step up and point out the contributions of his fullbacks. Derek Bishop has held down the role the last several years, paving the way for current NFL player Rashad Jennings in 2008 and Liberty's three-headed rushing attack in 2009, which helped the Flames record 31 rushing touchdowns. Looking to pick up the vacant reins in 2010 at fullback will be newcomers Francis Bah and Peter Gagliardi. "We've got two guys who are exciting players and new to our program," commented Rocco. "Francis Bah joined us this past spring from Germany. He is a big-body guy, who is fast and is still learning the game of football. "Peter came to us from Buffalo during the summer. We had a lot of communication with Peter out of high school, but at the last minute, he chose Buffalo. After a coaching change at Buffalo, Peter has found a home in our football program and we are looking forward to seeing what he could do for us this year." Tight Ends/Fullbacks at a Glance Front Runners TE - Tommy Shaver (R-Jr., 6-6, 255) FB - Peter Gagliardi (R-Fr., 6-3, 240) - or - Francis Bah (R-Fr., 6-2, 250)
Contenders Matthias Wrede (R-Sr., 6-5, 280) Steven Wilkes (R-So., 6-6, 280) Nathan Revell (FB) (R-Sr., 5-10, 235)
Up-and-Comers Brandon Apon (R-Fr., 6-4, 220) John Carter (FB) (R-Fr., 5-8, 220) Patrick Gibson (FB (R-Fr., 6-3, 210)
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