For this week’s column, I’m going to do a bit of borrowing from ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Lowe writes an NBA column called “Lowe’s 10 things,” where he goes through the NBA writing about things he likes, dislikes or notices. For my column today, I’m going to be covering five things that I like or dislike about how the Flames have started their new season. As always, these are my unbridled opinions, so if you disagree with any of them, make sure to go voice your complaints to me on X (Twitter) so I can promptly ignore them.
I love this new passing scheme the Flames are playing with
For the past few seasons, the Flames have been pretty one dimensional in their air attack, and it’s led to an easier time for opposing defenses. I mean, look at last year’s reception leaders for the Flames. If you scroll down the list, the first non-WR you’ll see is running back Dae Dae Hunter, who was sixth on the team in receiving yards. The Flame’s inability, or deliberate choice to only use players with a WR next to their name, was something that constantly bothered me. Under Head Coach Jamey Chadwell, the Flames have taken a much better approach.
Through two weeks, the Flames’ passing game is much more spread out than it has been, with multiple non-WRs participating. Tight ends Bentley Hanshaw and Austin Henderson have been much more involved in the passing game than in previous seasons, as has the Flames running back corps. True freshman Vaughn Blue is the only Liberty RB with a touchdown so far this season, and it was scored via a pass from Salter.
All that to say, the best offenses in football tend to involve their entire skill positions group in the passing game, and it’s nice to see Liberty trending in that direction.
This Liberty secondary might be one of the best groups we’ve seen in recent memory
After game one against Bowling Green, I was worried that the preference we saw from the Flames secondary would be a one-time thing, or a flash in the pan. In response to my worries, that Flames secondary put on another show of takeaways and pass defense.
Sophomore linebacker Jerome Jolly Jr. ended the matchup with seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. Sophomore safety Brylan Green, who’s been playing something of a combo defensive back role for the Flames so far, pulled down his second interception in the same number of games, which he accompanied with six tackles and a freakishly athletic pass breakup. Junior corner Kobe Singleton got his hands on a pass that was pulled in for the pick by senior free safety Brandon Bishop. It was quite a show all the way around.
Do me a solid and reread that summary, and pay attention to the classes of the players. Jolly, sophomore. Green, sophomore. Singleton, junior. I didn’t even mention sophomore Amarian Williams who also played really well on Saturday, or the captain, senior Quinton Reese. This secondary might genuinely be one of the best groups the Mountain has seen in maybe a decade. Especially if the coaching staff keeps using Jolly Jr. in wacky and fun ways, and if Green can keep up these electrifying performances.
I’m worried about the Flames’ defensive front
Over the past few seasons, the Flames have been dominant in the defensive trenches. They were phenomenal at stopping the run, and had the ability to pressure any opposing quarterback at will. But that was then, and now, it seems that getting even two sacks is a struggle for the Flames’ defensive line. Through two games they’ve totaled just four sacks, and allowed close to 200 rushing yards in both appearances. If the Flames want to stay competitive on the defensive side of the ball, they need to, at the very least, put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and they’ve been struggling to do so.
The injury to captain and senior defensive lineman Kendy Charles certainly doesn’t help things, but it is just one factor in a rather disappointing beginning of the season for this defensive front for Liberty.
Running back is going to be an interesting position to watch this year, and I love it
If you read my recap article on B1, then you read about how this running back room has quickly shifted from a “running back by committee” type approach to more of a one-two punch coming out of the backfield. Junior Quinton Cooley and sophomore Billy Lucas combined for 196 rushing yards on 35 carries, and they seem to be the two backs that we’re going to be seeing the most of for the foreseeable future. True freshman Vaughn Blue, who I highlighted in my column last week, was also in the mix — but he only got five carries, 10 less than Lucas.
I would have to imagine that the strategy with running backs would move and shift as the season progresses, but keep your eye on whomever lines up next to Salter in the back field. Cooley and Lucas are clearly the first and second options, and it seems that Blue is going to be more of a receiving back than a running back, but I’m excited to see how the depth chart gets adjusted as the Flames play a few more games.
Palsgrove is the asst. sports editor for Liberty Champion. Follow him on X