Flames ink 14

Signing day goes well for Flames

Following a historic year for the Flames, Liberty Head Coach Turner Gill announced the addition of 14 new players to the 2015 football roster as a part of National Signing Day Wednesday, Feb. 4.

At the afternoon press conference held in Liberty’s football operations center, Gill announced that of 16 official visits, 14 athletes committed to Liberty. Gill credited Director of Player Personnel/Recruiting Charlie Skalaski III and Assistant Director of Player Personnel Kettie Fickter for their job on the recruiting circuit in the offseason.

“The coaching staff really did a fantastic job of … (finding) out who these guys are,” Gill said. “(Our staff) researched them for months, figuring them out academically, figuring out them spiritually to see if they fit and have an open mind to receive Christ, and also (figuring out if they have) an open mind to (receive) the teaching (in) the way we teach our student athletes to be successful on and off the field. … I think our staff did a great job of really not wasting our time, not wasting university money and doing things in a great, efficient way.”

According to Gill, players in the incoming class will be assets for the program in the 2015 season as well as two to three years down the road.

“I think this class fits our needs for now, and it also fits our needs for the future,” Gill said. “… They’re athletic, they’re competitive, they’ve been winning football (games), and they know how to do the things that we want our players to do.”

The signing class includes six offensive players and eight defensive players.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Flames will add offensive linemen Ernst Andersen and Dontae Duff, wide receivers Denvre Daniels and Damian King, tight end Zac Foutz and running back Frankie Hickson.

Gill called Andersen, a 6-foot-7-inch, 310-pound mid-year enrollee from Lillesand, Norway, a “big, raw and intelligent” player.

“God has a way of putting people here that fit,” Gill said. “… I think our coaching staff did a great job of really connecting with (Anderson), and I think he did a great job of being able to come here and find out that this is a fit for him. … It’s always gonna be a transition period for anybody, whether they’re one mile away, or whether they’re 1,000 miles away.”

According to Gill, Daniels and King can also add to the Flames special teams unit as return specialists, which is an area Liberty’s coaching staff has focused on in the weeks since the 2014 season ended.

“(That’s) one area where I know that we definitely (emphasized) on our staff — return specialist,” Gill said. “Again, we know that was an area that we didn’t do very well this year, and I’m well aware of that. So we definitely wanted to attack that area and make sure that we bring in some people (so we) can have great assets at return specialist.”

The Flames also added eight defensive players, including defensive linemen Will Brown, Javon Frazier and Juwan Wells, safeties Rion Davis and Cameron Jones, cornerbacks Malik Matthews and Jeremy Peters and linebacker Jaylyn McKinney. According to Gill, several of the signees are athletic players who can also transition to other positions.

Gill compared Peters and Matthews to former Flames cornerbacks and current NFL players Kevin Fogg and Walt Aikens, respectively. Additionally, like Daniels and King, Matthews can also help on special teams as a return specialist.

Gill also highlighted Lynchburg native Jones, emphasizing his “very good ball skills” and quickness.

“The thing that caught our eye immediately with him — he came to our camp (and) ran a 4.4 (40-yard dash),” Gill said. “We all timed him. So when someone does that and we physically (time him) ourselves, that (shows a) very, very good (asset) for him.”

Brown will add to the Flames defensive front as a “powerful, big, mature” player, according to Gill.

“He has a similar body probably like (Flames redshirt senior defensive lineman) Toby Onyechi — and I’m saying Toby Onyechi’s body as of right now,” Gill said. “… This guy has an opportunity to grow even bigger than that.”

The new-look Flames will open the 2015 season Sept. 5 when they host the Delaware State Hornets.

FYI For an in-depth look at all 14 signees, visit liberty.edu/champion.

BROWN is the editor-in-chief.

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