The Sun Belt doesn’t generally have many junior declarees (outside of the notable Jonathan Massaquoi from Troy last year), so this list may be best suited for the 2014 draft. However, regardless of what draft this prospects are considered for, there is a handful of intriguing prospects for the future of the Sun Belt.
Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State lead the way in terms of prospect, but conference favorite FIU has the lead returning rusher who may develop into an NFL prospect in the future.
1. Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
A powerfully built 6’1, 260, Jackson is a classic space eater inside with limited range outside the tackle box yet outstanding physicality in it. With his range limited, he struggles to make plays in space and at times gets washed out by late blockers or pulling inside guards. However, he does a fantastic job of filling the hole, driving the blocker back, and still reading and recognizing the play as a tackler. If he can stay productive and show more consistent ability to shed blocks quickly on the inside, he could have value as a rotational inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme as a run stuffing presence.
2. Drayton Calhoun, RB, Middle Tennessee State
A former LSU transfer just last season who will get the chance to battle for the top spot on the depth chart, it’d be a surprise based on talent and high school resume if Calhoun doesn’t start for the Blue Raiders. While we haven’t seen him run at all in college yet, he was a former Top 150 prospect in the country as a senior and a 4-star running back in high school. Many high school studs don’t turn out to be studs in college, but Calhoun has worked well in the weight room and is not only accepting his new home outside of Baton Rouge, but thriving in the opportunity to get full time carries.
3. Logan Kilgore, QB, Middle Tennessee State
The 6’3, 185 pound skinny passer has tremendous talent based on his performance last season. Certainly needing to bulk up quite a bit to last in the NFL or at least be worthy of a practice squad, he has sneaky good running ability. He needs to be more decisive in his reads downfield or in his decision to run, and doesn’t always show a great understanding of play recognition, but the talent is there with a young offense to continue to develop with.
4. Kendrick Rhodes, RB, FIU
The lead returning rusher from 2011, Rhodes will look to build on a solid season where he flashed NFL ability thanks to his natural talent along with impressive offensive line play, especially on the outside. Rhodes has explosive ability up and through the hole, keeping his balance quickly and then effectively bouncing runs outside for big pickups. Unstoppable at times last season, Rhodes needs to be more consistent game to game and show up against better competition, as that’s where he struggled most in 2011. He’ll face Louisville, UCF again this season.
5. Eric Thomas, WR, Troy
Not a dynamic athlete nor a consistent deep threat, Thomas has been a reliable, sure-handed, efficient receiver for fellow junior Corey Robinson, the team’s quarterback. Thomas works best coming outside in and making plays between zones or just after his route break. A reaction receiver with some ability after the catch, he’ll never be a dominating force at receiver. However, his reliability and consistency as a receiver over the course of last season could make him a late round option in the NFL in the future.
6. Sean Conway, OC, Western Kentucky
With ideal size, length, and upper body force off the snap, Conway has shown some NFL potential so far in his career, not always easy for a center, especially at a lower level. He drives well with his lower body initially and delivers a pop well, especially against sub-320 pound 3-techniques/nose tackles. Only allowing four sacks all year last year and managing a young group, his value to the offense may be great than quarterback Kawaun Jakes this season thanks to his protection ability and aiding in his other lineman on their reads.