Season Opener: Liberty Flames Preview/Checklist

July 23, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons head coach Jim Grobe speaks to reporters during the ACC media day at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro NC. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

Most people on here don't know a lot about the Liberty Flames (myself included). Wake Forest is 28-6-1 all-time against FCS opponents (I believe that all of those losses came to Appalachian State in the 80's 90's), and the only previous meeting between the Deacs and the Flames was in 2006 when Wake Forest came up victorious 34-14.

Jim Grobe is 5-0 all-time against FCS opponents, outscoring them 212-42. I don't mean to discredit this game, but these numbers show that Wake Forest will likely come out of this game with a victory, and a substantial one at that.

The Flames have experienced success over the past 7 years, thanks in large part to former team captain and outside linebacker for the Deacs, Danny Rocco. While head coach for the Flames from 2005-2011, Rocco led the Flames to a 47-20 record (26-5 Big South), and four consecutive first place finishes in the Big South.

Rocco made the move from Liberty to Richmond after last season and the Flames lured former Buffalo and Kansas head coach Turner Gill to Liberty.

This article will serve as a dual-threat: one part preview, one part checklist, so Wake Forest fans will learn a little bit about the Liberty Flames and what to expect from the game on Saturday. It will be helpful for things to watch for, as well as how this game can be viewed to determine what kind of team the Deacs have this year.

Click through the jump for a look at the Flames and what the Deacs need to do on Saturday

Brief Preview

Last year the Liberty Flames went 7-5 and finished in second place in the Big South. Their only loss in-conference (5-1) came to Stony Brook in the final game of the year and pushed the Seawolves into the playoffs with a 6-0 record. This broke a four year run where the Flames had tied or won outright the Big South.

In listening to Turner Gill at his press conference this season I learned that on Saturday the Flames will play two quarterbacks and have apparently not sorted out their dilemma there. Fr Josh Woodrum (Wake Forest, Vandy and Elon also offered him) and JR Brian Hudson will both get two possessions apiece to start the game and from there the coaching staff will decide who will finish the game. This will inevitably go a long way in determining who will star start the rest of the season as well.

Woodrum is a dual-threat QB who can beat a team with his arm or his legs. Hudson is more of a pocket passer but can surprise people with his legs from time-to-time. I expect Woodrum to beat out Hudson just because he is younger and has more time to develop and also because he offers more looks to opposing defenses. I'm eager to see how our defense will respond to this early season challenge that the QB's pose.

Gill also revealed that JR RB Aldreakis Allen will be suspended for the game on Saturday. While he was slated to be the second string runningback behind SR Sirchauncey Holloway, Allen led the Flames in rushing yards last year with 621 yards (on 120 carries for a 5.1 YPC average). Holloway finished third on the team with 294 yards and 4 TD's. He did start 7 games last year though.

Turner Gill mentioned that the starting cornerbacks on his team were the best that he has ever had. JR Walt Aikens in particular is looking to make a huge splash this season at the FCS level and the coaching staff is expecting a big stride for him.

A guy that the Deacs need to watch is Kevin Fogg. He is an elusive kick returner that is among the best in college football at any level. He was voted as a First Team All-American kick returner by three different publications as he led the nation with a 33.5 kick return average. That included three kickoff returns for touchdowns (tying the Big South record). In addition to his prowess in the return game, Fogg also tied for the team lead with three interceptions, including two in one game against Robert Morris (along with an 88 yard kickoff return for a touchdown), two fumbles forced, 45 tackles, and a blocked field goal.

The new kickoff rules should alleviate some of those concerns because Jimmy Newman should be able to boot most of his kicks for touchbacks.

The Liberty defense figures to be pretty strong, especially in the secondary, and I know that their fans are pretty high on that unit this season. The D will need to improve a good deal from last year though, as they allowed 20+ points 7 times, including 3 games over 30 points.

Overall, the Wake-Liberty game features two teams that want to rely on their defense and special teams to play the field position game and then hopefully muster enough points to win.

Checklist

These are just things that I think Wake fans should look for on Saturday if the game gets out of hand. Fulfilling a majority of these things will at least reassure most that the Deacs have a chance at a promising year.

Offensively

  • First team offense score over 28 points
  • Average over 5 YPC
  • Accumulate over 400 yards of offense
  • Maintain a healthy balance of rush and pass offense (250 yards passing, 150 yards rushing)
  • Maintain time of possession- Can be hard in games like these, but try to get around 35 minutes
  • Limit the turnovers (anything over 2 is too many)
  • Allow no more than 2 sacks (coverage sacks excluded)
  • Achieve at least 3 drives of over 50 yards
Defensively
  • First team allow no more than 7 points
  • Limit the Flames to 200 yards of offense (first team)
  • Force at least three turnovers
  • Score a TD defensively- This is a stretch, but the Deacs need the defense to score a good bit this year
  • Accumulate at least 3 sacks
  • Allow no more than one drive of over 50 yards
Special Teams/Anything Else
  • Make all FG's/XP's
  • Punting average of over 40 yards
  • Limit Kevin Fogg's returns by managing at least 75% of all kicks to touchbacks
  • Under 5 penalties
  • NO INJURIES!!!
  • Kickoff return average of over 30 yards (could be tricky if it's a small number)
I'm sure that there are other things that need to be watched, and some of these may be difficult to achieve if other parts of the game are going well for the Deacons (see the 3 drives of 50+ yards if field positioning is good all day). This will give most something to look for within the game to keep focus up and get a good idea of what the team is capable of.

It also bears noting that in their last two games against FBS opponents Liberty has lost by 22 (43-21 to N.C. State last year), and 13 (33-20 to West Virginia in 2009). This team just doesn't seem to have the same firepower on offense though that previous teams have had.

Keep the comments and hits coming, we will have a ton more stuff coming up this week including the Blogger So Dear Pick 'Em Challenge! Enjoy and Go Deacs--gameday is 4 days away!!!
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