Liberty Study: Disruptive Defense, Inconsistent QB Play

Hugh Freeze has his Liberty team at 8-2.

It’s a battle to decide the best team in the Commonwealth. If Liberty wins, they take the title; if not, it’s JMU’s. Can the Hokies play spoiler?

Liberty seems to play up (or down) to their competition, beating Arkansas and BYU, and giving Wake Forest all they could handle, while losing to UConn and struggling against FCS Gardner Webb. When it comes to Virginia Tech, does Liberty get up for an ACC squad, or do they come out sloppy against a 2-8 team they beat two years ago?

The Liberty Offense

This year’s Liberty group is a run-heavy team that pounds the ball not because they’re very good at it, but because of limitations at quarterback. Season-opening starter Charlie Brewer (#16) has basically been out all year, but it sounds like he might be recovered from hand surgery and could make an appearance. Kaidon Salter (#7) looked promising, but screwed up his groin, missed a few weeks, came back for Connecticut, and lost a fumble that got him benched.

That leaves Johnathan Bennett (#11) as the probable starter. He was bumped to third string in the first half of the season, but he’s improved as the season’s gone on, putting together good games against BYU and Arkansas; the Arkansas game was impressive not just for doing well away against an SEC squad, but because he was also getting over the flu at the time. He’s pretty mobile, and he’s had a few nice throws, including some good balls on post routes off RPO and play-action calls:

His biggest weakness is that there’s not a kind of interception he doesn’t like throwing. He gets picks off bad misses, failing to thread the needle in tight zones, and ignoring tight man coverage. I feel like a Hokie win is going to need a turnover out of him.

The main guy to watch for is Demario Douglas (WR, #3) busting out critical plays a bit like Zay Flowers does for Boston College. He can do it from the slot:

On the reverse:

And even on a BASH concept out of the backfield:

The backs have also been banged up. TJ Green (#2) started and played well against UConn, but Daveon “Dae Dae” Hunter (#0) has been really good as the regular starter. He made Wake Forest look absolutely hapless at times when it came to tackling, and his speed gave Arkansas problems. Here he is against BYU:

However, Hunter is out for the season with a knee injury, so the Hokies won’t have to worry about him on Saturday.
Liberty’s got some good ones up front blocking. Lately, they’ve tended to set up with the left side of the line tight to the LOS and the guys on the right side further off the line, so you might notice their alignment looking odd at times. X’Zauvea Gadlin (RT, #73) is a pass-pro technician who’s great with his hands—he kind of looks like he learned under the Mr. Miyagi