Freeze Announces Coaching Staff Changes
Heading into his fourth season on Liberty Mountain, Flames Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze has announced several changes to his coaching and administrative staff.
The coaching staff adjustments are mostly on the defensive side of the ball and look to build upon the unit’s 2021 finish. The Flames defense ended the year ranked No. 11 in total defense (320.2 yards allowed per game) and No. 24 in scoring defense (21.5 points allowed per game).
Liberty’s three new assistant coach hires added a pair of defensive coaches with NFL coaching/playing experience and an offensive coach with two-plus decades of coaching history at the FBS/Power 5 level.
Coaching Staff Promotions
Josh Aldridge – Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach
Jack Curtis – Co-Defensive Coordinators/Safeties Coach
Dominic Studzinski – Associate Head Coach/Football Head Strength and Conditioning Coach
Coaching Staff New Hires
Darius Eubanks – Defensive Backs Coach
Jeremy Garrett – Defensive Line Coach
Chris Klenakis – Offensive Line Coach
Bob Marco – Assistant Football Strength Coach
Chris Terry – Assistant Football Strength Coach
Robert Bala – Defensive Analyst
De’Von Brown – Graduate Assistant – Defense
Administrative Staff Promotions
Matt Bevins – Associate AD for Football Administration/Chief of Staff
CJ Holden – Assistant AD for Football Operations
Eric Ponio – Senior Offensive Analyst
Jordan Cantrell – Senior Defensive Analyst
Danielle Gillen – Director of Football Nutrition
Administrative Staff New Hires
Kyle Robison – Graduate Assistant – Football Video
Freeze has elevated current defensive assistants Josh Aldridge and Jack Curtis to Co-Defensive Coordinators. Aldridge will also shift his position focus to the linebackers, while Curtis will continue to work with the safeties.
Aldridge joined Freeze’s staff in 2019 and was named to the Broyles Award watch list (top assistant coach in the country) in 2021. This past season, Aldridge’s defensive linemen helped the Flames rank No. 11 in the country in red zone defense (72.5 percent), No. 14 in tackles for a loss (7.1 per game) and No. 28 in sacks (2.85 per game).
During his first three seasons at Liberty, Aldridge has had seven defensive linemen named to the Phil Steele FBS Independent All-Conference teams, including three in 2021 (DE TreShaun Clark, DT Elijah James and DT Ralfs Rusins).
Curtis, who joined the Flames’ staff prior to the 2021 season, moves back into a position that he has spent for more than two decades coaching in previous coaching stints.
Prior to joining the Flames, Curtis served as a defensive coordinator for 21 seasons at five different programs (Arkansas State, Central Missouri, Georgia Southern, Northwestern State and Tulane).
During his first season with the Flames, Curtis helped Liberty’s defense rank No. 6 in the country in passing yards allowed (180.3) and Team Passing Efficiency Defense – No. 21 (120.08).
Darius Eubanks – Defensive Backs Coach
Darius Eubanks, a former outside linebacker in the NFL, comes to Liberty after serving as the safeties coach at Georgia State during the 2021 season.
Georgia State finished the 2021 season with an 8-5 record, including a win over 51-20 win over Ball State in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas day.
The Panthers ranked No. 15 in the country in tackles for a loss (7.1 per game) and No. 23 in sacks (2.92). Georgia State had 10 interceptions in 2021 and ranked No. 30 nationally in turnovers gained (21).
Georgia State had two defensive backs earn All-Sun Belt honors in 2021. Safety Antavious Lane was a first-team honoree after finishing the year No. 4 in the country in interceptions (5), while cornerback Quavian White was a second-team selection after recording a GSU career best 32 passes defended.
Eubanks spent the last three seasons (2018-20) on the defensive staff at Samford but came to Georgia State from Western Carolina, where he was hired in the spring of 2021 as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
At Samford, Eubanks coached the safeties for two seasons (2018-19) and then served as the defensive backs coach and assistant special teams coordinator in 2020.
Under Eubanks’ coaching, Samford’s Chris Edmonds earned All-America honors and was a first-team All-Southern Conference selection after ranking second nationally in interceptions (4).
Eubanks began his coaching career as the defensive line graduate assistant at Arkansas in 2017.
Following a stellar career at Georgia Southern, Eubanks signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in 2013. He spent his NFL career (2013-16) with the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A four-year starter at linebacker and defensive back at Georgia Southern (2009-13), Eubanks started 50 of 52 game played for the Eagles. He totaled 260 tackles, including 12.5 for loss, recorded four interceptions and broke up 18 passes during his career.
Eubanks ranked in the top five on the team in total tackles every season with a career-best 77 as a senior in 2013 en route to Southern Conference All-Conference first team honors from the league head coaches.
A native of Thomson, Ga., Eubanks earned his bachelor’s in sport management from Georgia Southern in 2013.
Jeremy Garrett – Defensive Line Coach
Jeremy Garrett comes to Liberty after spending the last two seasons as the assistant defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns (2020-21).
Garrett helped coach NFL Pro Bowl selection Myles Garrett in 2021, who recorded 31 tackles (19 solo, 12 assisted) and 7.0 sacks. The Browns finished the 2021 regular season ranked No. 5 in the league in total defense (311.5 yards allowed per game).
Garrett got his coaching start at the collegiate level in 2019 when he spent one season at Vanderbilt as a defensive quality control assistant.
Prior to this time at Vanderbilt, Garrett spent eight years at Ensworth High School in Nashville, Tenn. (2011-18). During his time at Ensworth, Garrett served in a variety of roles that included associate director of admissions, assistant track and field coach, assistant defensive football coach, fitness department chair and head football coach.
During his one season as head football coach, the Ensworth Tigers finished the 2018 season with a 7-5 record and advanced to the Division II-AAA quarterfinals.
Garrett got his coaching start in 2010 as an assistant coach at Southaven High School in Southhaven, Miss.
Garrett was a four-year letterwinner at Ole Miss (2004-07), earning All-SEC Academic team honors. He was also the Ole Miss Lifter of the Year and Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner. He graduated with a business degree from Ole Miss in 2007 and an MBA from Harding University in 2010.
Garrett, who is a native of Senatobia, Miss., was a defensive lineman at Ole Miss while Liberty’s Head Coach Hugh Freeze served as a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator (2006-07).
Chris Klenakis – Offensive Line Coach
Chris Klenakis, a veteran coach at the FBS and Power 5 level, joins Liberty’s coaching staff as the Flames’ new offensive line coach.
Klenakis has also coached at Nevada (1990-99; 2004-09), Southern Mississippi (2000-02), Central Missouri (2003), Arkansas (2010-12), Iowa State (2013) and Louisville (2013-18). Klenakis served on the staff at South Alabama during the 2021 season as an offensive quality control assistant.
While at Louisville, Klenakis served as the Cardinals’ tight end and offensive line coach. He was part of the offensive coaching staff that helped quarterback Lamar Jackson win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
In 2017, Klenakis saw his tight ends recorded 48 catches for 572 yards and five touchdowns.
Before taking over the tight ends, Klenakis served as the team’s offensive line coach from 2013-16 and saw the Cardinals rush for 3,148 yards in 2016 — the second-best total in school history. He tutored offensive tackle Geron Christian to a pair of all-conference seasons.
Taking over the offensive line in 2014, Klenakis had three players earn all-ACC honors and each made it on to NFL rosters. Jamon Brown, a second team all-ACC honoree, was a third-round pick of St. Louis, while John Miller, a third team all-conference performer, was also a third-pound selection of Buffalo. All-ACC honorable mention, Jake Smith signed a free-agent deal with Cincinnati.
Over the course of his coaching career, Klenakis has shown the ability to develop talent, tutoring 24 offensive linemen who have advanced to the NFL.
As offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, he has tutored 18 all-conference selections, including 2010 first-team All-SEC performer DeMarcus Love. Klenakis has coached in 13 bowl games and in two NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.
Before coming to Louisville, Klenakis spent one season at Iowa State. The Cyclones finished the 2013 season with the 10th-most points in school history and were one of the most efficient teams in the red zone, ranking No. 17 nationally.
Prior to his stint at Iowa State, Klenakis served as the offensive line coach for three seasons (2010-12) at Arkansas. The Razorbacks flourished with Klenakis directing the offensive line. The Razorbacks allowed the third fewest sacks in the SEC in 2012 and the pass offense was also third. Travis Swanson was named as an all-conference offensive lineman.
In 2010, the Razorbacks led the SEC in passing offense, scoring offense, and total offense in earning the school’s first-ever BCS appearance after finishing 10-2 overall. That season, the Razorbacks set records for passing yards (4,061), touchdown passes (34), and total yards (5,871).
Klenakis’ offensive line helped Arkansas set 16 program records in 2011. Arkansas led the SEC in passing offense (300.7), total offense (438.1), and scoring offense (36.8) to become just the fifth different school to lead the conference in all three categories in a single season and the first since Florida in 2001.
Before his successful stint at Arkansas, Klenakis served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Nevada for six seasons. Nevada’s 2005 WAC championship team led the nation in time of possession and ranked eighth in the NCAA in third-down conversions. In 2004, his first year at Nevada, he coached All-WAC performer and St. Louis Rams tackle Harvey Dahl.
At Nevada, he was at the helm of the “Pistol” offense that was prolifically productive, featuring a powerful running game led by the offensive line and, from 2007-09, current San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Klenakis was the first coordinator in NCAA Division I history to coach an offense that led the nation in rushing (2009) and passing (1997) during his career.
The Wolf Pack had three 1,000-yard rushers during their record-setting 2009 season, the only school in NCAA history to feature a trio of players to reach the 1,000-yard mark on the ground.
Prior to his stint as offensive coordinator at Nevada, he was offensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2000-02) and spent one year at Central Missouri (2003).
The former two-time Nevada High School Coach of the Year earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and history from Carroll College in 1986, where he was a four-year letterwinner as an outside linebacker. In 1992, he completed his masters of exercise physiology at Nevada.
Outside of the football coaching staff changes, Freeze has announced several administrative staff changes for the 2022 season.
Freeze has promoted Dominic Studzinski to the position of Associate Head Coach/Football Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. Studzinski has worked tirelessly in the weight room and in offseason workouts with the Flames since joining the staff in 2019.
Studzinski’s abilities to train Liberty’s football players has played a key role in the Flames winning bowl games each of the last three season. Liberty is one of five FBS teams in the country who have won a bowl game each of the last three seasons, joining Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana.
Freeze has also promoted Matt Bevins to Associate AD for Football Administration/Chief of Staff. Bevins, a former FCS All-America kicker for the Flames (2008-11), will now oversee the day-to-day management of the football program. In his new role, Bevins will supervise all of football administrative areas (Operations, Player Personnel and Player Development).