2020 Sun Belt Preseason Summer Scouting Preview

    Tony Pauline's 2020 Preseason Summer Scouting Series continues with one of the smaller conferences in the FBS, taking a closer look at the NFL Draft prospects from the Sun Belt Conference.

    My 2020 Preseason Summer Scouting series continues today with a look at another smaller FBS conference that will play football this fall – the Sun Belt Conference. Though many of these schools may not be household names, the Sun Belt is still home to some prospects that will be selected in the 2021 NFL Draft next April.

    2020 Preseason Summer Scouting Series
    AAC | ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | C-USA | MAC | MW | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

    All of my Sun Belt Conference previews are below. To view my grades and projected draft rounds for Sun Belt draft-eligible prospects, scroll to the end of the article.

    Page 1: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State
    Page 2: Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Troy, Coastal Carolina

    [sv slug=”mocksim”]

    2020 Sun Belt Preseason Summer Scouting 

    Appalachian State Mountaineers

    Appalachian State is a program on the rise, both on the field and in NFL war rooms. The depth chart possesses no early or mid-round picks, but there are several late-rounders and a host of undrafted free agents who can make a next-level roster.

    All the top next-level prospects from App State can be found on defense.

    Junior Shaun Jolly is a short, feisty corner with excellent ball skills. He’s fast, explosive and can play backed off the line of scrimmage and in zone coverage.

    Related | Appalachian State poised for sustained excellence under Shawn Clark

    D’Marco Jackson is a developing linebacker who stands out against the run and shows ability in coverage. He needs to complete his game, but he has upside.

    Demetrius Taylor is a game-changer on defense who consistently makes game-altering plays. He forces fumbles, comes away with the big sack during important moments, occasionally intercepts passes and is a constant nuisance. Taylor also measures under 6-foot-1, 280 pounds and does not have a true position at the next level. He’s a late-round situational player who a creative defensive coordinator will find a place for.

    Arkansas State Red Wolves

    Despite putting a competitive team on the field, Arkansas State has not had a player selected in the draft in the past half-dozen years. That may change next April.

    Forrest Merrill was poised for a big junior campaign off the 2018 film, but he was sidelined after five games with an injury last year.

    Merrill is a tough, slug-it-out lineman who is best occupying the gaps and makes the occasional play. He’s quick, built low to the ground and impossible to move off the point.

    Merrill has the body type, mentality and skills to line up as a nose tackle at the next level if he stays healthy and continues to develop.

    Reminder: To view my grades and projected draft rounds for Conference USA draft-eligible prospects, scroll to the end of the article.

    Georgia Southern Eagles

    Except for three running backs who have had success in the NFL – Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida – the NFL contributions from Georgia Southern have been solely defensive. Even more specifically, the program’s draft picks have primarily come from the secondary, where the Eagles’ top prospect presently resides.

    Georgia Southern lined up three next-level defensive backs in its secondary last year, with fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor being the best of the bunch. While breaking down the film in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft, it was a different player in the defensive backfield who stood out to me: redshirt sophomore Kenderick Duncan Jr. The GSU film review I did over the summer further confirmed what I saw earlier this year — Duncan was far and away the best player in the secondary and is a terrific next-level prospect.

    Related | Is Shane Buechele the top senior quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft?

    He’s a linebacker-sized safety with excellent range, tenacity and instincts. Duncan does a great job remaining disciplined with assignments, reading the action and making his move to the throw. He’s a hard hitter with terrific ball skills, and Duncan is not a liability in man coverage. Deep speed may be an issue, but I already grade Duncan as a second-day prospect, and he comes with big upside and great versatility.

    Raymond Johnson is another fiery defender who creates a lot of havoc from his end position. He’s a leverage player with the ability to bend off the edge and make plays in pursuit. Johnson lacks great size and is a bit out of place in the 3-4 defense used by GSU, but he could have a home as a conventional defensive end in a four-man line at the next level.

    Georgia State Panthers

    Georgia State is still a young program, with its beginnings just a decade ago. Since their kickoff, the Panthers have had three players drafted. A South Carolina transfer could be the fourth in April 2021.

    Jamyest Williams was a corner I liked when he lined up for the Gamecocks. He was a solid cover man with next-level speed and ball skills. Williams is small with growth limitations, but I still believe he could make a roster as a dime back and special teamer.

    Reminder: To view my grades and projected draft rounds for Conference USA draft-eligible prospects, scroll to the end of the article.

    Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast

    Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.

    Related Articles