Liberty football has a plan in place in case new coach Hugh Freeze is unable to be on the sideline for Saturday’s season opener at home against No. 22 Syracuse.
Co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Maurice Harris will serve as Freeze’s proxy on the field if Freeze coaches from the booth. Harris will be the coaching contact for officials and signal for timeouts if Freeze wants one called in a certain situation.
“I haven’t been in a situation like this before, but I’ve been a head coach before,” Harris said after Thursday’s practice. Harris last served as a head coach at Whitehaven High School in Memphis, Tennessee, from 2001 through 2003. “It’s something that’s not going to be a hard transition for me. Whatever I can do to help the team, I’m willing to do it.”
Harris said he coached from the booth during his previous six seasons as a tight ends coach on Freeze’s staff at Arkansas State and Ole Miss and was never on the field with Freeze.
“It’s going to be business as usual for me,” Harris said.
The Flames plan to have three coaches in the booth for the entire season: Kent Austin (co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach), Scott Symons (defensive coordinator/safeties coach) and Kyle Pope (linebackers coach).
“If anything it’s a little bit of a positive,” Symons said. “You’ve got a guy that’s a great offensive mind sitting in the box next to me.”
Bennett ready after Willis’ appeal denied
Auburn transfer Malik Willis’ appeal for immediate eligibility to play at Liberty this season was denied early Wednesday evening by the NCAA.
A Liberty spokesperson did not have a reason for the denial Thursday, and Willis was not made available to the media after practice.
“It’s unfortunate for Malik; he’s a real good guy and a really good quarterback,” freshman quarterback Johnathan Bennett said.
Bennett, who has practiced primarily with the second-string offensive line during training camp, is the clear-cut backup to starter Buckshot Calvert entering the season. Bennett enrolled in classes for the spring semester and participated in spring practices.
He said he got a little bit of work in with the first-string offensive line during practice to be prepared in case he has to play early in the season.
“I feel like the preparation has been put into me,” Bennett said.
“ … I’m prepared if my name is called up on Saturday to go in and help this team win.”
Kidd-Glass added to roster
Safety Tim Kidd-Glass was cleared to join Liberty’s roster Thursday afternoon after transferring from N.C. State.
He entered the transfer portal on Aug. 4 and tweeted on Aug. 20 that he was transferring to Liberty.
Kidd-Glass is not on scholarship this season and is ineligible to play in 2019 because of the NCAA transfer requirements. He did not redshirt while at N.C. State, and next season will be his final year of eligibility.
He played in 33 games during his three seasons at N.C. State and posted 68 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Kidd-Glass is a Danville native.
He played at George Washington High School for his freshman and sophomore years, transferred to Liberty Christian Academy for his junior season, then returned to GW for his senior campaign.
Liberty plays at N.C. State on Nov. 21, 2020 in the regular season’s penultimate week.
More roster moves
Boyd Rogish, a junior offensive lineman, also was added to the roster Thursday to round out the 115-player team. Rogish, of York, Pennsylvania, is 6-foot-3 and weighs 270 pounds.
Kicker Stuart Ashley was removed from the team to make room for Rogish. Ashley, a sophomore, was added to the roster during last season’s training camp when Alex Probert suffered a right quad injury.
Ashley appeared in only one game last season, the opener against Old Dominion, and had two kickoffs that averaged 62.5 yards.
Lemonier on Hendricks watch list
Liberty senior defensive end Jessie Lemonier was one of 37 players included on the Ted Hendricks Award preseason watch list.
The award honors the top defensive end in college football.
Lemonier, along with Syracuse’s Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman, are the top returning leaders in sacks per game at the FBS level.
All three each had 10 sacks.
Robinson and Coleman are also on the Hendricks preseason watch list.
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.