Liberty defensive depth to be tested against UMass – Lynchburg News and Advance

Liberty began this past weekends game at Rutgers without Brandon Tillmon occupying one of the starting linebacker spots. The contest ended with several players going down with injuries, which will force the Flames to test their depth Saturday at UMass.

Depth is going to be a factor, Flames coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. Were going to have to get our two-deep ready with kids that havent played a lot of snaps this year. Then hopefully by Saturday, some of these that are on the day-to-day list will be able to be added bonuses to us.

Tillmon and fellow starting linebacker Solomon Ajayi both were listed as day-to-day on the injury report. Ajayi was injured late in the first half against the Scarlet Knights but returned and played the majority of the second half.

He was sporting a walking boot on his left foot leaving the stadium.

Tillmon suffered a small fracture in his right foot early in the Flames Oct. 5 victory at New Mexico State. He played against Maine two weeks later but was unable to go against the Scarlet Knights.

The injuries will necessitate more reps in practice for Amarii Jenkins, Tyren Dupree, Waylen Cozad and Malik Caper.

Jenkins, a redshirt sophomore, made the second start of his career against Rutgers in place of Tillmon at Will linebacker.

Brandon being the great player that he is, making the plays that youve seen in the past couple of games, it was a huge loss, Jenkins said Monday. Hopefully he gets better so he can help out the defense a lot for the rest of the season.

Dupree, a redshirt freshman, has served as Ajayis backup this season with seven appearances and posted a career-high six tackles against Rutgers. Cozad, the junior college transfer, started against Louisiana on Sept. 7 and finished with a season-high nine stops against the Scarlet Knights.

Caper, a true freshman, has played in two games this season and can play in two more while retaining his year of eligibility. He traveled with the team to Rutgers.

With those two being kind of banged up, [linebackers coach Kyle] Pope is going to make sure he does his best to get the rest of us ready, Jenkins said. Were kind of young and inexperienced. Its not an excuse for being able to step up and take in a role that needs to be taken when somebody goes in.

The injuries werent limited to just the linebacker corps.

Free safety JaVon Scruggs and defensive end Austin Lewis, both sophomores, are in concussion protocol.

Scruggs, the Appomattox County High product who posted a career-high 10 tackles against Rutgers, was hit on one of the Flames two onside kick attempts.

He took a vicious hit on that onside kick, which was not a clean play, Freeze said.

That means Isaac Steele, who only played on special teams against Rutgers until Scruggs injury late in the fourth quarter, will receive most of the first-team reps at the position.

Micah Glaize and Benjamin Alexander will serve as Elijah Bentons backups at rover.

Lewis was one of three defensive ends to see consistent playing time against Rutgers in the first half, and his absence forced Jessie Lemonier and TreShaun Clark to play the majority of the second-half snaps.

Freeze added he wants to prevent nose guard Ralfs Rusins from playing as many snaps as he did against Rutgers, which could mean a larger role for Elisha Mitchell.

The good thing is well be able to present to our defense exactly what they want to see because it is a mirror image of who we are, Freeze said of preparing for UMass offense. Its identical. The same RPOs, the same runs, the same sets. They may go a little bit more two-by-two spread than we do, but thats typically when theyve gotten behind a bit that they go to that. If they can stay in the game, they stay in their comfort zone, which is the RPO world.

NOTE: Libertys Nov. 9 matchup against BYU is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. EST kickoff at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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Liberty defensive depth to be tested against UMass - Lynchburg News and Advance

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