CONWAY — When No. 25 Liberty comes into town to play No. 18/14 Coastal Carolina University on Saturday, the day ESPN's College GameDay will be on campus, it will most likely be without its starting quarterback.
According to A Sea of Red, Liberty quarterback Malik Willis tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon.
The Flames are currently awaiting a second test, as Willis is asymptomatic and in good health, a source close to A Sea of Red said.
"I can confirm we are having some COVID-19 concerns within our football program," a Liberty athletics department official said. "Liberty has been in communication with Coastal Carolina about these concerns. Liberty still intends to play the game this weekend. Liberty did hold a normal practice this morning and has been following our normal COVID-19 testing protocols this week."
The Flames (9-1) are scheduled to play Coastal Carolina (9-0, 7-0 Sun Belt) at Brooks Stadium Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPNU, with popular EPSN college football pregame show College GameDay also coming into town.
"Our focus and intention remain on preparing and playing Liberty University on Saturday and showcasing our university and campus to the college football world via ESPN College GameDay," the Coastal Carolina University Athletic Department said in a statement. "There are no changes or adjustments to that schedule and both schools are still completing weekly COVID-19 testing protocols that would impact any game decision."
This season, Willis has completed 151 of 236 passes for 2,040 yards, 20 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He also leads the Flames in rushing with 807 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 120 touches.
Willis, who was recently named to the Maxwell Award Watch List, is the only FBS player to rank among the nation’s top 15 for both passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. He also leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing.
If Willis is unable to play Saturday against the Chants, Liberty would start either Chris Ferguson or Johnathan Bennett.
In six games played this season, Ferguson has gone 19-for-37 passing for 197 yards an four touchdowns. He was the starter for Liberty’s game against North Alabama earlier this season when Willis missed the game with a left elbow injury. Ferguson was 12-for-21 passes with 64 yards and three touchdowns in that contest.
Bennett has seen the field in five games this season, going 4-for-5 with 77 yards, a score and a pick.
"Well, one, let's hope that he's OK," CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said of Willis."Hopefully it's not something that's going to be serious long term for him. I don't know him really personally, but anybody that gets that, that's disappointing, obviously, for him because I know he was probably looking forward to a big game, and he's a great player.
"And it's probably disappointing or our team. I know that, because I know they wanted to play against him."
Senior linebacker Silas Kelly basically mirrored what Chadwell said about Willis.
"Obviously, let's hope he's all right," Kelly said. "It's a scary disease and you never really know for sure how it's going to affect some people, so I'll be praying for him and his family.
"I know in terms of football, we were all looking forward to playing against him. He's a dynamic guy; it's special when you get an athlete like that at the quarterback position ... So we're disappointed about it, I know a lot of people are probably disappointed about it, but at the end of the day I just hope he's all right and hope he'll be able to make it back for the rest of the year."
This is a developing story. Check back later for details.