Jamey Chadwell Looking To Forge Identity, Solve QB Competition, as Liberty Flames Begin Spring Practice

As the Liberty Flames open their spring practice, new head coach Jamey Chadwell is looking to forge an identity and settle the QB battle as early as possible.

The Liberty Flames opened their spring practice Thursday, beginning a new era for the program as a Conference USA competitor. The Flames begin this new chapter with a new head coach following Hugh Freeze’s departure to Auburn. Jamey Chadwell is now focused on using the 15 spring practices to forge a new identity while hopefully solving one of the most significant position battles for his new team.

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Jamey Chadwell Looking To Forge a New Identity for Liberty Football

Chadwell knows a thing about identity. His Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were the poster boy for knowing who you are and what you want to accomplish. They played speed-option football on offense, with a hard-hitting, physical theme in all phases of the game. They did it while embracing a culture of inclusivity, a culture of fun.

Sharing a joke with reporters ahead of their opening spring practice, Liberty’s new head coach showed he wants to bring that fun element to the Flames. However, there was a deadly seriousness as Chadwell focused on the importance of forging an identity for this program during the early time spent together on the football field.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress with our team connecting and laying the foundation that we want to have, starting with today,” Chadwell opened his pre-practice availability with.

“Really trying to lay out the objectives, what we’re trying to accomplish, our identity — who we want to be in all three phases as far as how we play the game, and why we play the game. That’s the main thing we’re focused on. Our whole focus this spring will be our identity.”

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Within the first two minutes of his exchange with reporters, Chadwell used the word “identity” multiple times. The repetition reinforced the message. No one could be confused by the mission at hand as the former Coastal coach leads Liberty into Conference USA play.

But, what does that identity look like for the Flames in the 2023 college football campaign? Not only did Chadwell set out his vision for Liberty’s football program, but he also spelled out the importance — if it needed to be spelled out — of setting the standard, setting the expectation, setting the — you guessed it — identity of his team.

“Really, you want to set the identity of who you are. We want to be a physically and mentally tough football team. I want to put our team in as many adverse situations as possible to see who we are and how we’re going to respond. Because, if we can figure that out now, we don’t have to wait until the fall to figure that out.”

Chadwell Looking To Settle Liberty QB Competition Swiftly

It isn’t just identity that Chadwell wants Liberty to find before the fall.

“It would be awesome if we could name a starting quarterback at the end of spring practice,” the Liberty head coach responded to a question about the upcoming QB battle. “That would mean someone’s said, ‘Hey, I want this job,’ and they’ve mastered it, and we could go forward with that. I don’t know if that will happen, but I want to see guys take the next step.”

After losing Malik Willis to the NFL following the 2021 season, the Flames’ quarterback position saw a noticeable drop-off in production and performance in Freeze’s final season at the helm. Johnathan Bennett took the majority of snaps under center last season and was instrumental in leading Liberty to wins over BYU and Arkansas.

“I just can’t say enough about (Bennett) and just his maturity and handling the last two games that we’ve had with BYU and in an SEC stadium,” former coach Freeze enthused about the Liberty quarterback after his performances in those games.

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However, Bennett was as inconsistent as he was instrumental. As a result, there’s a genuine three-way battle brewing between the returning QB tandem of Bennett, Kaidon Salter, and Southern Miss transfer Trey Lowe.

Statistically, none of them are comparable to the man that powered Chadwell’s Coastal offenses — Grayson McCall. The mulleted magician may well have been at the forefront of the new Liberty head coach’s mind as he summarized what he wants to see at the position.

“There’s obviously some talent there. But, there’s also some inconsistency there otherwise, we’d have a starter back from last year. How can whoever it ends up being show some consistency? You’ve got to have someone under center that the team wants to run through a wall for. You’ve got to be the guy who wants to be the leader, that puts the extra time in, that will do everything possible to put the best foot forward, and that’s what we challenge our quarterbacks to do.

“They all have talent, they wouldn’t be at this level if they didn’t, but it’s the character that goes with it, the work ethic that goes with it, the desire to lead a bunch of men to something that they don’t think they can accomplish. Who will take that role is the big deal right now.”

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