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Liberty Football: 2022 Flames Season Preview and Prediction

Demario Douglas, Liberty Flames Football

Demario Douglas and the Flames are ranked No. 73 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Liberty is 26-11 and earned three consecutive bowl trips under coach Hugh Freeze. However, that streak will be tested in 2022, as Freeze's team lost quarterback Malik Willis to the NFL and returns only seven starters this fall. Despite the heavy personnel turnover, the Flames have enough winnable games (and talent) on the roster to earn another winning mark. Utah transfer Charlie Brewer could start at quarterback, with T.J. Green and Dae Dae Hunter anchoring the backfield. Home games against BYU and Virginia Tech also give Freeze's team plenty of chances to make some noise in '22.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Liberty's Offense for 2022

Liberty relied on the electric play of quarterback Malik Willis to reach new heights over the last two seasons. The dual-threat signal-caller was a once-in-a-generation talent, and head coach Hugh Freeze admits it will be challenging to replace him.

Freeze found Willis in the transfer portal, and he hopes finding veteran QB Charlie Brewer in the portal will keep the offense humming along. Brewer played in big games at Baylor and Utah over the past five seasons and accumulated more than 11,000 yards of total offense. Brewer has a deep wide receiving corps to work with at Liberty.

Campbell transfer Caleb Snead was an FCS All-American in 2021 and gives the Flames a dynamic outside playmaker to complement slot receiver Demario Douglas. CJ Yarbrough returns following a one-year sabbatical and is a reliable option on the boundary.

The offensive line was upgraded through the transfer portal. Cam Reddy will start at center after transferring from Colorado State, and Kentucky transfer Nassir Watkins will protect Brewer's blind side at left tackle.

Previewing Liberty's Defense for 2022

The unit has to replace both inside linebackers (Storey Jackson and Rashaad Harding) and both interior linemen (Ralfs Rusins and Elijah James) after ranking 11th in total defense for the second straight season.

Mike Smith Jr., from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, is expected to start at Mike linebacker alongside Tyren Dupree. Former defensive end Aakil Washington has moved to linebacker for first and second downs, and he'll be used at end with TreShaun Clark and Durrell Johnson in obvious passing situations.

Tackle Kendy Charles moves up the depth chart after recording 4.5 sacks last season. Newcomer Dre Butler (Auburn) is expected to line up alongside Charles at nose guard, with freshman Bryce Dixon finding his way into the rotation. Chris Boti should see more playing time after recording 17 tackles in nine games last season.