Liberty Football 03

Liberty coach Hugh Freeze celebrates after his team scores a touchdown against Hampton at Williams Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. 

Hugh Freeze looked more like his old self after practice Thursday.

The Liberty football coach stood without the assistance of a walker and didn’t appear to be in any noticeable pain after running through a complete practice for the second straight day.

“I didn’t get in the golf cart, not one time. I didn’t use my walker. I moved around just like I am. I have this big brace on, but I’m blessed,” said Freeze, who is sporting a back brace underneath his shirt to keep his back as straight as possible. “I’m so much better than I was, so I think I’m turning the corner.”

Freeze said he was released for rehabilitation earlier this week and saw a specialist in Lynchburg. “She about killed me for the first 5 minutes, I thought I was going to pass out. By the end of it, I felt great,” he said with a chuckle.

Dr. Dilan Ellegala, who performed the Aug. 16 back surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center, told Freeze to begin pushing the envelope more in what he does on a daily basis to see how his back holds up to the rigors of coaching.

“I made it 17 periods yesterday without the golf cart and I didn’t have extreme pain last night. Did I have some? Yes. But I’m back today and I feel good right now [and] I’m sure I’ll hurt some tonight,” Freeze said. “It’s not terrible and he said the real sign was how do you feel. You’re going to hurt at night, but how do you feel the next morning. I woke up this morning and felt good. He thinks that’s a sign you’re really turning the corner.”

Does that mean Freeze will be walking the sidelines for the first time this season? His wife, Jill, suggested he remain in his NASCAR pit box for at least one more week before the Flames travel to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to face New Mexico State.

“We’re 2-0 in the NASCAR pit box,” said Freeze, an avid NASCAR fan.

The appearance of the raised podium has the feel of a traditional pit box used by Late Model Stock Car teams today at the local short tracks and what was commonly used in the NASCAR touring series before advancements in technology allowed more comprehensive setups to be used by the multi-billion dollar organizations in the Cup Series.

“If it was an away game and then back home, I would say yes, but I’m debating right now,” Freeze said. “I’m feeling a lot better like I could get out of the way if I needed to, but my kids and coaches are like you might ought to stay in the pit box one more week. I hadn’t made that decision yet.

“I’m just afraid I may not get to an official for a critical call,” he added. “I’ll probably be in the pit box, that’s what I call it, one more week. I may change my mind, don’t hold me to that, but that’s probably the wisest thing to do.”

Injury update and movers on defense

Liberty had to shuffle its secondary this week with two of the team’s top four cornerbacks likely limited against New Mexico.

Chris Megginson, a true freshman from Heritage High School, has moved from free safety to boundary cornerback with Emanuel Dabney “probably out” with a hamstring injury and Bejour Wilson day-to-day, according to Freeze.

“We had already moved Tayvion [Land] to safety,” Freeze said, “and now you’ve got Dabney [probably out] and not sure how many snaps Bejour can give, so we need a little more depth there.”

Wide receiver Noah Frith, safety Rion Davis, defensive end Brayden Monday and defensive tackle Elisha Mitchell are available to play against the Lobos.

Defensive tackle Devonte Lloyd is out, along with fellow lineman William Green, who hasn’t played this season with a stress fracture in one of his feet.

“That stress fracture has been a bear for him. It’s not getting much better,” Freeze said.

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Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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