• Liberty vs Syracuse: Flames Get Snuffed Out

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    Liberty University and rising Star Malik Willis got their chance against power-five opponent Syracuse but came up just short in primetime.

    In a rematch from 2020, Liberty matched up against Syracuse in primetime on Friday night. Last year, the Flames won 38-21 and Malik Willis had over 230 total yards along with 2 TDs. In a losing effort, Sean Tucker had over 100 rushing yards.

    Willis has risen up draft boards and this was a good test for the QB against a power-five opponent. This game was a tale of two halves, with Syracuse controlling most of the first half and Liberty coming back in the second.

    Syracuse only passed for 77 yards but was able to run for 255 yards, lead by Sean Tucker with 168 yards. Willis and the Flames were stifled most of the first half until they were able to put a TD drive together right before halftime. Syracuse took away Willis' first read and made sure they had multiple defenders around him when he ran.

    Willis calmed down in the second half and lead three long drives — two for a TD and one that failed to convert on fourth down and goal. The big mistake was a fumble late in the fourth quarter by Willis that lead to the game-winning field goal by Syracuse. In a surprise move, Liberty coach Hugh Freeze opted not to call a timeout with 20 seconds left to save time for a comeback.

    Liberty Flames

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    Malik Willis, QB

    Willis was a top 400 athlete in 2017. He committed to Auburn, but transferred to Liberty in 2019. In 2020, he passed for over 2,200 yards with 20 TDs, and added over 900 rushing yards with 14 more TDs. So far in 2021, Willis has improved his completion percentage to over 70% and has yet to throw an interception.

    Some NFL Draft mocks have placed Willis in the top 10 in prospects for 2022. I think this game was a microcosm of the type of player he is right now. He had over 250 total yards and three TDs in this game against Syracuse.

    Willis is a great runner who can make some amazing throws (two pinpoint TD passes in this game) but sometimes struggles reading defenses and being consistent with his throws. He will have one more opportunity against Ole Miss later in the season to impress scouts and show he can pull a game out against a power-five opponent.

    Syracuse Orangemen

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    Sean Tucker, RB

    Tucker was not even a top 800 prospect. As a Freshman in 2020, he had over 700 yards and four TDS at Syracuse. Through three games in 2021, Tucker has over 500 yards with seven TDS and is starting to gain momentum in being a player to be watched for the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Against Liberty, Tucker continued his great season with a little under 200 total yards. He is a tough runner who fights for extra yards but also has track speed to run for long gains when he gets outside. Tucker will not be a top 3 RB in 2023 because of Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Tank Bigsby, but he could definitely be in the running for a top 5 RB spot.

    Garrett Williams, CB

    Williams was not in the top 1,500 prospects in 2019. However, according to Draft Bible, he is a top 50 prospect for 2022. In 2020, he had 54 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 9 passes defended. TDuring that 2020 season, Williams lined up outside and impressed, even with multiple NFL draft picks in the secondary. Against Liberty, he continued strong play with two tackles and two passes defended.

    Thanks for checking out this review. You can read all my work on my IDP Guys Author Page and find me on Twitter @hayeb3

    Brandon Haye

    Dog & Craft Beer Lover. Go Browns, Jags, & Wolverines. Devy Dude for IDP GUYS and fantasy football analyst
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