Sporting News includes Liberty’s Malik Willis among Top 25 QBs

liberty malik willis
Malik Willis drops back to pass in the Flames’ 45-0 win over UMass. Photo courtesy Liberty Athletics.

Following a breakout season in 2020, Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is already starting to garner attention heading into the 2021 season.

Willis has been named to the Sporting News Top 25 quarterback ranking list for 2021. Willis was ranked No. 16 on the national signal caller preseason listing.

Willis was the No. 1 rushing quarterback in the country in 2020. He led all FBS quarterbacks with 944 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Willis set school records in both statistical categories for a quarterback with his standout totals.

The native of Atlanta, Ga., finished his first season under center for the Flames completing 170-of-265 passing attempts for 2,260 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Willis captured a series of honors during his first season on the field for the Flames in 2020. He was a Phil Steele Postseason All-America (honorable mention), Dudley Award winner (top player in Virginia as presented by the Richmond Times-Dispatch), Davey O’Brien Award Quarterback Class of 2020 member, VaSID Offensive Player of the Year and was named to several national honors watch lists (CFPA National Performer of the Year, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, and the Maxwell Award).

Willis led the Flames in total offense (3,204 yards), passing yards (2,260) and passing touchdowns (20) in 2020, while overall ranking No. 7 in the country in rushing touchdowns and No. 16 in rushing yards.

Willis helped Liberty to a season of “firsts” in 2020, including the team’s first-ever national ranking, first win over an ACC opponent, the best start in school history (8-0 to start 2020), first-ever win over a top-25 FBS program and back-to-back bowl game wins.

Liberty defeated a pair of ACC foes in Syracuse and in-state opponent Virginia Tech. The two wins made Liberty the first non-Power 5 team to post a pair of wins over ACC schools in the same season since Houston in 2015.

The Flames finished the season with a 10-1 record, tying the program’s record for wins in a season (Liberty finished the 2008 season with a 10-2 record).

Liberty finished the campaign ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the Amway Coaches Poll, the highest year-ending FBS rankings in school history.

Liberty capped off the 2020 season with a thrilling 37-34 overtime win over No. 9/11 Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The win marked Liberty’s first-ever victory over a FBS top-25 ranked program.

With the Cure Bowl win over its former Big South rivals, Liberty became the second transitioning team in NCAA history to win consecutive bowl games during its first two full seasons at the FBS level.


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