Liberty Football: 9 Flames named to Phil Steele Preseason All-Indy team

LibertyWith the 2019 football season rapidly approaching, preseason honors continue to roll out, including nine Liberty players being named to the 2019 Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Team.

Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden was selected to the All-Independent first team, while Joshua Mack (RB), Dontae Duff (OL), Jessie Lemonier (DL), Austin Lewis (DL), Solomon Ajayi (LB), Alex Probert (K), Ceneca Espinoza, Jr., (KR) and DJ Stubbs (PR) were second-team selections for the Flames.

At the end of the 2018 season, Liberty’s first at the FBS level, Duff, Gandy-Golden and Lemonier were three of the six Flames’ players named to the 2018 Phil Steele Postseason All-Independent Team.

Gandy-Golden became the second player in program history to post back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons, finishing his junior year with a team-best 1,037 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The Biletnikoff Award watch list member would have ranked No. 14 in the country in receiving yards per game in 2018 (94.3), if Liberty was eligible for the national statistics rankings (not eligible due to NCAA FBS reclassification process).

Mack will take to the field for the first time as a Flame in 2019 after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He transferred to Liberty after playing two seasons at Maine where he rushed for 2,047 yards and 15 touchdowns. He ranked No. 1 in the country in rushing in 2017 (133.5 yards per game) and was a finalist for the 2017 Walter Payton Award (top FCS player in the country).

Duff, a rising senior on Liberty’s offensive line, has started all 34 of his career games played, including all 12 games at right guard in 2018. He helped Liberty finish the season averaging 261.5 passing yards per game, which would have ranked No. 33 in the country.

Lemonier made his mark during his first season at Liberty after transferring from Ventura College prior to the 2018 season. Last year, he had 55 tackles (30 solo, 25 assisted), including 13.5 tackles for a loss, and became the third player in program history with 10 or more sacks in a season. He also would have ranked No. 8 in the country in sacks per game (0.83).

Lewis finished his freshman season at Liberty with 24 tackles (13 solo, 11 assisted), including 6.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He saw playing time in all 12 games, including two starts and recorded multiple tackles in six out of 12 games, helping him earn FIAA Freshman All-American honors.

Ajayi had an immediate impact on Liberty’s roster where he tied for the team lead in tackles (76) after transferring from Bakersfield College. He started all 12 games in 2018 and ranked second on Liberty’s roster with two interceptions, while adding 4.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Probert was sidelined most of the 2018 season with an injury, but was able to see playing time in four games. He finished the year connecting on 19-of-20 extra point attempts. In 2017, the STATS FCS Preseason All-American knocked down 14 field goals and led the conference with 38 extra points.

Espinoza led the Flames with 16 kickoff returns for 354 yards, averaging 22.1 yards per return. He also finished the season with 27 tackles and two pass breakups as a part of Liberty’s defensive backfield.

Stubbs finished the 2018 season with 10 of Liberty’s 13 punt returns, averaging 10.1 yards per return. He saw playing time in all 12 games and started five at wide receiver where he finished the season with 546 receiving yards and five touchdowns.


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