The 15 Most Intriguing Players Returning to the Sun Belt in 2019.
The Sun Belt has plenty of star power to shine the entire season.
It’s kind of a rare thing when a Sun Belt player declares early for the NFL Draft. But this year, at least two of the conference’s best known commodities will take the early plunge: Appalachian State cornerback Clifton Duck and Georgia State wide receiver Penny Hart.
Duck will not be missed by 9 out of 10 Sun Belt programs, as he pretty much had his way with the conference’s offenses. Hart, who is gaining all kinds of steam after his performance at the Senior Bowl, is a physically gifted player who will likely be the Sun Belt’s highest chosen draftee.
So neither Hart or Duck will appear on this list. Their loss! Who wouldn’t want to be on this list? Speaking of this list, I didn’t order those who appear based on ability. It’s just fifteen intriguing guys. Please don’t ruin me on Twitter.
15. Carlton Martial, LB, Troy
Martial was named to The Athletic Freshman All-America Team in 2018 after logging 70 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss on the season.
14. Donald Lewis Jr, DL, ULM
The 6’3″ 270lbs mini-tank found his niche in 2018, recording 4.5 sacks on a ULM defense that desperately needs similar production in 2019.
13. Khameron Taylor, TE, South Alabama
Following the big footsteps of great South Bama tight ends, Taylor has yet to put up big numbers, but his big 6’4″ 250 frame is a load as a blocker.
12. Ja’Marcus Bradley, WR, Louisiana
Bradley, who seems even bigger than his listed 6’1″, pulled down 10 touchdown passes in Billy Napier high powered offense.
11. Marcel Murray, RB, Arkansas State
Murray’s relentless running style earned the freshman starting duties about two-thirds into the 2018 season. The Sun Belt named him Frosh of the Year for his effort.
10. Shai Werts, QB, Georgia Southern
A full year of Chad Lunsford extracting the most value out of Werts in 2018, when the sophomore rumbled for 15 rushing TDs. He should be even better as a junior.
9. Trey Ragas & Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
Is it unfair to list these guys together? Maybe, but the duo is the most frightening offensive weapon in Lafayette, combining for 2,100 yards and 21 TDs.
8. Forrest Merril, DL, Arkansas State
The Bearded Beef Battleship was a nice surprise for the Red Wolves last season. The 320lbs monster will continue to pancake QBs and running backs in 2019.
7. Corey Sutton, WR, Appalachian State
The big wideout had ten TDs for the Mountaineers in 2018. I suspects he wants more.
6. Tarron Jackson, DL, Coastal Carolina
What’s 6’2″, 263lbs and wants to eat your quarterback for lunch? See answer above.
5. Bryan London II, ILB, Texas State
Texas State’s defense wasn’t bad in 2018, and London was a huge reason why with two forced fumbles and 109 total tackles. He should have a dominating senior season.
4. Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern
The Eagles are known for the triple option offense, but damn, that pass defense was stout in 2018. Vildor collected 4 picks last year.
3. Kirk Merritt, WR, Arkansas State
Merrit was the Sun Belt’s only 1,000 yard receiver last season. No reason he shouldn’t collect anther grand his senior season.
2. Kaleb Barker, QB, Troy
Sawyer Smith took over for Barker when the junior was injured mid-season. But Troy was clearly a tougher offensive team with Barker under center.
1. Zac Thomas, QB, Appalachian State
The Mountaineers lost legendary QB Taylor Lamb and didn’t lose a yard a production with Thomas, who chucked for 2,000 yards and 21 TDs his first year as a starter. Year 2 should be even scarier.
Who did I miss? Probably your favorite returning player. Hit me up on Twitter to chew me out.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.