Richmond Times-Dispatch

Liberty’s Willis reportedly positive for virus

Flames still intend to play against Coastal Carolina on Saturday

- Fromstaff and wire reports

Coastal Carolina football coach Jamey Chadwell spent much of his 24-minute press conference Wednesday speaking highly of Liberty quarterbac­k Malik Willis and the challenges the dual-threat athlete would present to his defense. College GameDay’s trip to Conway, S.C., and the matchup of two top 25 teams were also high on Chadwell’s list of things he was anticipati­ng Saturday, but he was worried about slowing down Willis.

North Carolina State was the only team that contained Willis through the Flames’ first 10 games.

The coronaviru­s pandemic may have sacked Willis before Coastal got the chance to check him Saturday at Brooks Stadium.

Willis, according to reports, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, and his status for Saturday’s game is in doubt. Liberty has not confirmed those reports and has not disclosed the names of players and coaches who have tested positive this season.

A Sea of Red first reported the news of Willis’ positive test, citing unnamed sources.

“After all these questions about him, huh? Well, one, let’s hope that he’s OK, obviously,” Chadwell said. “Hopefully, it’s not something that’s going to be serious long-term for him.”

A Liberty athletic department official confirmed to The News & Advance that the football program is having some COVID-19 concerns and has communicat­ed with Coastal Carolina about them.

Liberty still intends to play the game this weekend. The team held a normal practice Wednesday morning and has been following its COVID-19 testing protocols this week.

“We’re never out of the woods on COVID. It’s a weekly on pins and needles, waiting on the tests to come back and see what the results will be,” coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. “Truthfully, we have been affected by it; we just don’t talk about it publicly. We haven’t had the cases of it to where it really altered us terribly, so we have been blessed in that regard.”

Liberty linebacker CarlPoole is the only player to publicly reveal he tested positive for COVID-19, saying it was the reason he did not play in the Flames’ Nov. 7 victory at Virginia Tech.

Liberty (9-1) is ranked 25th in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, while Coastal (9-0, 7-0 Sun Belt) is 14th.

Michigan cancels Big Ten game with Maryland

Michigan’s game against Maryland was canceled after the Wolverines suspended team activities Wednesday because of an outbreak of COVID-19 that could also threaten their rivalry game against Ohio State on Dec. 12 and the Buckeyes’ chances to play for a Big Ten title.

Michigan has paused in-person football activities until at least Monday.

“The decision ... was made with the health, safety and welfare of the student-athletes, coaches and staff as our utmost priority,” Michigan athletics director WardeManue­l said. “We have seen an increase in the number of student-athletes unavailabl­e to compete due to positive tests and associated contact tracing.”

Ohio State had to cancel its game last week at Illinois because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in its program. It was the second game the Buckeyes (4-0) have lost from their regular-season schedule. One more would leave them unable to reach the conference-mandated minimum to be eligible for the Big Ten championsh­ip game.

Ohio State said the Buckeyes had resumed in-person football activities Tuesday, an encouragin­g sign that they will be able to play at Michigan State on Saturday.

But now the Michigan game is in danger.

For Maryland (2-2), this was the third time a game was canceled this season. Matchups against Ohio State and Michigan State were wiped out last month after the Terrapins had 23 positive tests for COVID-19, including coach Michael Locksley.

Maryland has played only one game since defeating Penn State on Nov. 7, losing last week at Indiana. The Terps are scheduled to wrap up the regular season next Saturday at home against Rutgers.

Meanwhile, the Mid-American Conference said the Kent State at Miami game scheduled for Saturday would not be played because of roster issues related to the virus at Kent State.

So far six games scheduled for this weekend have been postponed or canceled, including Washington State at No. 17 Southern California, which was pushed back two days from Friday to Sunday.

Mississipp­i also suspended team activities in football Wednesday, though the Rebels have an open date this weekend.

Coach LaneKiffin said the team could return to the practice field after as little as a one-day hiatus.

Southern Mississipp­i names Hall coach

HATTIESBUR­G, Miss. — Southern Miss has hired Tulane offensive coordinato­r Will Hall as its new head coach.

Athletics director Jeremy McClain announced the hiring on Wednesday, replacing Jay Hopson, who resigned after the Golden Eagles lost the opener to South Alabama.

Hall spent the past two seasons at Tulane after stints as an assistant at Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis, among others.

He’s a former head coach at West Alabama (2011-13) and West Georgia (2014-16). Hall led the two Gulf South Conference programs to combined records of 56-21, winning three league titles and two coach of the year honors.

UCF receiver Williams opts out of rest of season

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF senior receiver Marlon Williams

has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season to focus on the upcoming NFL draft.

The Alabama native is coming off a career best regular season, during which he led the American Athletic Conference in receiving yards (1,039), receptions (71) and receiving touchdowns (10).

Williams started eight games this season but missed the season finale against USF on Friday, with the school providing no explanatio­n for his absence. He emerged as the go-to option in 2020 after the departure of GabeDavis.

His 2,260 career receiving yards in 46 career appearance­s rank 10th overall in school history and his 19 career touchdowns and 157 career receptions put him at No. 9 alltime in program history.

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