Hugh Freeze’s status is still in question for Liberty’s first road game of the season against Louisiana on Saturday night.
The Flames coach is not flying with the team to Lafayette, Louisiana, and will travel separately either Friday or Saturday morning if his surgically repaired back has healed to the point where he can sit upright for the entire game.
“I know he’s feeling a lot better,” co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Maurice Harris said after Thursday’s practice. “ … Hopefully he’ll get an opportunity to go.”
Freeze on Thursday spent his first extended amount of time in his office on the fifth floor of the Williams Stadium tower behind the west grandstands. It served as a test run to see how his back felt after sitting upright for a long period of time, which he will have to do if he makes the trip to Cajun Field.
His Liberty coaching debut last weekend garnered national attention as he laid in a hospital bed and called plays from the coaches’ booth at Williams Stadium against Syracuse.
The visiting coaches’ booth at Cajun Field is not as spacious as the home booth at Williams Stadium, and Freeze, 49, will be unable to use a hospital bed to call the game Saturday.
Louisiana coach Billy Napier said earlier this week he and the university “want to do all we can to help coach Freeze. It’s a unique scenario for him.”
Harris said Freeze has laid out a plan in case he is unable to make the trip, but Harris declined to reveal what the plan is.
If Freeze is able to coach, the Flames will implement the same plan as they ran in the opener against Syracuse: Harris will serve as Freeze’s proxy on the field, Freeze will call first- and second-down offensive plays, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kent Austin will call third-down plays, and Freeze will aid defensive coordinator Scott Symons on third-down and tight red-zone calls.
“Ever since he’s been out, Kent and I pretty much have been handling the play-calling and scripting and things of that nature,” Harris said.
“Since he’s been out, it’s been pretty much up to me and Kent from that standpoint.”
Harris said the coaching staff began working on a contingency plan soon after Freeze began experiencing severe back spasms after the Aug. 10 scrimmage.
Freeze was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital the following day and underwent surgery for a herniated disc and staph infection Aug. 16 at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
He had an MRI two Wednesdays ago after feeling some discomfort in his back, and the results revealed “an extreme amount of fluid that had gathered on the nerves where they did the operation,” he said at his Monday press conference.
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.