LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty is set to open the 2017 season in just under a month. Not only are they preparing for a tough season, but also for a farewell tour to the FCS.
Starting under center this season will be Stephen Calvert. The sophomore, standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall, started seven games last year, leading the Big South in passing yards, passing efficiency and tied the lead for touchdowns at 15. Now with the ball in his hand from week 1, showing leadership will be key.
"We're going to be a little bit more tougher or harder or whatever on grading what he needs to do, because I know he wants to be the best in the country. So we want to challenge him on every little thing he does. He's improved, there's no question about that," head coach Turner Gill said.
The defense will be solidly anchored again as well. Led by one of their leading tacklers in linebacker Solomon McGinty, the Flames had three games where they held their opponents to seven points or less. They also forced 26 turnovers, resulting in seventy-four points.
"We try to get as many turnovers as we can. Being at linebacker, any running back running through the hole, once we see them lacking, we work on punching the ball out. At defensive back, we work on catching the ball all the time," said McGinty.
With the school's two-year transition to the FBS, Liberty is not eligible to win the conference title or advance to the FCS playoffs, which means the motivation to win will need to come from within.
"Baylor is the only FBS team [on schedule]. We have FCS teams that are mad we're going FBS, so they're going to come with their hardest," McGinty said.
"We still believe that we have the opportunity to get our best record we can have. Yes it may not be officially to win the conference, but hopefully we beat out our teams in our conference," said Gill.
The Flames will open the Season on the road on Sep. 2 as they take on the Baylor Bears.