MONDAY HUDDLE: Is Liberty’s Malik Willis this year’s version of Trey Lance?

With 2022 quarterback draft class looking weaker than normal, Willis is a player to keep an eye on

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (7) celebrates with teammates after the team's overtime win over Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey) (Matt Stamey, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Huddle up! Here’s a look back at this weekend on the gridiron, with three key takeaways from the state’s football scene.

Eyes of NFL scouts are on Liberty’s Malik Willis.

There already have been, and will continue to be, plenty of NFL scouts descending on the Commonwealth State this fall, and much of it has nothing to do with Virginia Tech or Virginia.

Scouts and NFL front office executives have their full attention on Liberty’s program, which is home to what could be this year’s version of Trey Lance, the quarterback from small-school North Dakota State who was drafted No. 3 overall by San Francisco in this past April’s draft.

The man at Liberty is Malik Willis, a rising quarterback prospect, who, like Lance, possesses good size, great speed and a rocket for an arm.

Willis has completed nearly 68% of his passes for 1,327 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he has rushed for 498 yards on 82 carries in six games.

Also like Lance, he’ll have questions about not playing higher-level competition in college, being at Liberty.

But with the quarterback class for next year’s draft shaping up as underwhelming at best (presumed No. 1 pick Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma was benched during Saturday’s win vs. Texas) and Willis possessing enticing skills and upside, he’ll be a reason for anyone to watch Liberty football in the coming months.

Virginia Tech can’t finish the job against Notre Dame.

Virginia Tech seemingly had No. 14 Notre Dame on the ropes Saturday, taking a 29-21 lead with less than five minutes left -- and facing a quarterback in Jack Coan who was benched earlier in the game, but came back because his replacement got injured.

But Virginia Tech’s defense, that had played hard and fairly well before that, let the Hokies down at the worst time.

Coan first drove Notre Dame down the field to a touchdown and game-tying 2-point conversion with more than two minutes left. Then, in the possession that the Hokies probably regretted the most -- they couldn’t get a first down, and punted the ball back to Notre Dame on fourth-and-1 from their own 27 with less than two minutes left.

Notre Dame then drove into field-goal range and won the game on a 48-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer with 17 seconds left.

Another thrilling win for the Cavaliers.

All of a sudden, Virginia has become the “cardiac Cavs” with wins that have been pulled out the past two weeks.

After seeing Miami (Florida) miss a game-winning 33-yard field goal in a 30-28 Virginia win, the Cavaliers went to Louisville and pulled out a 34-33 victory, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left and seeing Louisville miss a 49-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Virginia rallied from a 30-13 deficit to start the fourth quarter with three touchdowns in the final stanza.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.