Liberty football notebook: Flames excited to move to Conference USA, but won’t focus on it in 2022 | LU Sports

Conference USA logos are prominently displayed around Williams Stadium and the Liberty Indoor Soccer Practice Facility. New turf being laid at Williams Stadium will feature C-USA logos between the 20 and 30 yard lines on both sides of the pitch.

Liberty’s new conference home will be hard to miss. The Flames, in their final season as FBS independents, proudly promote the Five Nations league they join for the 2023-24 sports season.

Football manager Hugh Freeze will not discuss this decision with this season’s squad. It focuses more on a daunting 2022 roster that includes four Power Five opponents, and begins with a September 3 opener at Southern Miss.

“It’s exciting. We won’t spend a lot of time this year talking about it,” Freeze said of the move after Friday’s practice. “We know when the decision was made, we discussed it and we we talk about it a lot when recruiting with the young men and families we recruit. With this team, we won’t discuss that much. It has nothing to do with this year. We will focus on it next year and the objectives will certainly be a little different.

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Liberty has officially accepted an invitation to join Conference USA on November 5. The G5 league was decimated by a wave of conference realignment that saw it shrink from 14 members to five, with Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, FIU and UTEP remaining.

FBS independents Liberty and New Mexico State, along with FCS call-ups Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State, join to make it a nine-team conference.

The 2024 calendar is taking shape

The move to Conference USA forced Liberty to remove games from its future schedules. The 2023 non-conference slate was recently completed with Bowling Green, Buffalo, Old Dominion and UMass making up the schedule.

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Liberty continued to trim its 2024 schedule by canceling a contest with Ball State, and a game with Texas State was removed from the Bobcats website.

The Flames and Texas State were scheduled to play a one-game series in Lynchburg.

The contract with Ball State, obtained by The News & Advance, included five changes to an original two-game series that was signed on May 21, 2018.

The Last Amendment canceled the 2024 game and moved a September 26, 2026 game from Muncie, Indiana to Lynchburg.

Liberty will host Ball State on September 21, 2030, then play Ball State on September 20, 2031.

Seven of the 12 games scheduled for Liberty’s 2024 slate have been scrapped and one is to be scrapped. The current non-conference schedule includes Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Marshall, Campbell and UMass.

Thirteen commits in the fold

Recruiting for Liberty hasn’t slowed down over the summer. He did the exact opposite.

The Flames have secured 13 verbal commitments for the 2023 recruiting class, and Freeze revealed Thursday night that a 14th player has committed to the class.

“I think the recruiting went extremely well,” Freeze said. “I think the biggest challenge in recruiting right now is judging when to slow down based on what might be, which you have no idea. You could lose 10 kids [to the transfer portal]you couldn’t lose any, and you had to deal with number 85 [scholarship] cap.”

The NCAA recently abolished the limit of 25 scholarship players who can be signed in a recruiting class. This will allow programs, like Liberty, to sign as many players as possible to return to scholarship number 85 if players choose to enter the transfer portal.

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“Having them do it with the 25 only made sense. It’s one of the logical things they did,” Freeze said. “I don’t know how you could preach to have student health, safety and welfare and not be able to replenish your roster if the transfer portal hit you. It was only logical that this had to happen to allow us to reach the 85 with each drop given. It had to happen.

Three members of Liberty’s top class have been named to preseason watch lists in recent weeks.

Right guard Brendan Schlittler has been named to the Outland Trophy watch list, which is awarded to the top inside lineman in college football.

Slot receiver and punt returner DeMario Douglas was on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football by the Louisville Athletic Commission.

Austin Mock has been added to the Patrick Mannelly Award watchlist. The award is given annually to the best long snapper in college football.

The Flames added two new members to the coaching staff just before training camp opened.

Jesse Stone has been hired as a senior offensive analyst and will work with quarterbacks, and Zach Crisler has been named an offensive quality control coach and will work with running backs.

Stone previously worked at UCF (offensive analyst), Arkansas (director of personnel for offense), Miami (offensive quality control coach) and Georgia (graduate assistant).

Crisler was a graduate assistant in South Alabama and North Alabama.

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