Liberty’s Versatile Bendle Settling (Back) In At QB

Last season Ryan Bendle was every defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. When Liberty broke their huddle opponents could find him lining up at wide receiver, running back and, at times, in the ‘wildcat formation’ for the Lions.

The good news is opposing coaches can now expect Bendle behind center full-time this fall.

The bad news is trying to stop him.

“It’s a little bit different going from slot receiver back to quarterback,” the senior said with a grin to Sports360AZ.com. “But it’s definitely a thrill. It’s been good.”

What was thrilling for Liberty last year was watching the 6-foot, 165-pound speedster rack up close to 900 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns as the Lions qualified for the playoffs finishing 7-4.

This past spring and now summer Bendle is transitioning back to the position he played from seventh grade until his junior year at Liberty. What’s made the move a little easier is having familiarity with the offense from three different spots on the field.

“The more multiple you can be, the more valuable you are to us,” Liberty head coach Mark Smith explained to Sports360AZ.com. “Last year he got to play some quarterback, too. Because he was a wide receiver and a quarterback that helped that transition. We asked the receivers to play running backs. We ask some safeties to play linebacker. We move people around and try to get them in spots where they can be successful.”

Bendle’s switch has been aided along by a talented group of skill players around him and practicing against the Lions’ stout defense each day in practice.

He patterns his dual-threat game after Johnny Manziel and wears “Johnny Football’s” same #2 jersey.

“It’s going to be a fun year,” Bendle said nodding his head. “I’m excited.”

You probably can’t say the same for those defensive coordinators.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.