Building the program
Moving to the FBS demands coaches to recruit the best players in the nation
The move from FCS to FBS for Liberty was announced last school year, and the transition has many factors that play into it. From recruiting to their schedule, many things will change as the process will take some time.
According to junior cornerback Jeremy Peters, the transition to the FBS is crazy, but it’s worth the long process in the end.
“Moving to the FBS level changes the recruiting process, for the most part, entirely,” Recruiting Coordinator Paul Rutigliano said. “From budget to talent to evaluations, almost everything about the process changes.”
Rutigliano said the biggest transition is going to be the evaluation of talent and how the team can get better.
“Now you’re playing at a higher level,” Rutigliano said. “So you have to recruit at a higher level.”
Rutigliano also mentioned that the move to the FBS allows the team to bring more kids on campus. He said the scholarship capacity goes from 63 to 85.
“The one big difference now is, right now is, when we get a young man on campus we have, I believe, everything that matches up to those schools with the exception of one thing, and obviously that’s the stadium size,” Rutigliano said.
Rutigliano said he believes Liberty can compete with other schools for higher recruits.
Liberty’s campus has many world-class facilities to present to recruits. Among those are the FOC, the new indoor practice facility and the new APC building. Rutigliano also praised the Liberty athletic staff, mentioning how they are another key factor that can help bring in more recruits.
To make the transition, Liberty needs to show FBS officials that it can compete at the highest level.
“I can tell you one thing, a win like the one against Baylor automatically gives you so much notoriety,” Rutigliano said. He said it especially helps with Liberty’s continued success in recruiting in Texas.
According to Head Coach Turner Gill, the win against Baylor gave the team confidence that it can compete at the highest level.
Rutigliano also said the exposure opens up “viable recruiting states” and allows Liberty to bring in more out-of-state recruits.
While the move to FBS is great exposure for the school, it is not going to be a completely smooth transition.
“It’s still going to take some time,” Coach Gill said.
According to Rutigliano, a crucial aspect of the transition is being skilled in the evaluation process, careful to bring competent players to Liberty’s football program.
“We’ve got to go out and get in the bushes and find kids that can play at this level,” Rutigliano said. “We have to be really skilled in our evaluation process to be able to project a kid from a high school level to the collegiate level to play at our level.”
Their goal is to fill each section with possible players to play each position and to fill their whiteboard from top to bottom.
Coach Gill said that stars do not always lead to productivity. He wants to build a team with players who have a faith-based interest, not necessarily a team of high school stars.
“We don’t care about the stars,” Coach Gill said. “We care about them being productive and developing them.”
Since defeating Baylor, Coach Gill is confident that people are going to view Liberty differently, which will show people what the school’s purpose is all about.
“Jesus has told us to find the lost,” Coach Gill said. “[That’s] what the Lord has told us to do.”
According to Gill, the national exposure resulting in the Baylor victory is outstanding, and it should proclaim God’s name to more people on TV.
With Liberty competing against teams like Auburn, Army, Virginia and Virginia Tech on their future schedules, it will help the team get more exposure and bring in more top recruits. The team’s win against Baylor was also trending on Twitter, while drawing the attention of sports media outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report.
Although success in athletics is important to Liberty, Rutigliano stressed that the primary goal extends far beyond what happens on the field.
“I hope, number one, that a young man looks at us because of what the school stands for,” Rutigliano said. “Secondly, as far as what can we offer that young man academically, if he doesn’t go onto the next level, he is going to have a degree that he can use in life to support his family and himself.”
Chambers is a sports reporter.