SWAC boasts next-level talent

Next spring, there should be no shortage of talented prospects available for the NFL draft from the SWAC. The conference has a number of great players on both sides of the football.

It has produced some terrific players over recent seasons, including Donald Driver (Green Bay Packers, Alcorn State), Robert Mathis (Indianapolis Colts, Alabama A&M) and Jason Hatcher (Dallas Cowboys, Grambling State).

The following list has some players who could be chosen on draft day or signed as free agents. But any way you cut it, the SWAC has some players to watch this season.

Kejuan Riley/free safety

Alabama State

6-1, 208-pound senior

Riley is probably the No. 1 prospect among HBCU players. He has 19 career interceptions, which makes him the active career leader in the FCS. He should be in the Senior Bowl and should get invited the NFL combine. Riley is a terrific player against the pass and does a good job of covering a lot of ground in the secondary with his quickness and anticipation. He has 20 solo and 32 total tackles along with two interceptions.

Joseph LeBeau/defensive end

Jackson State

6-1, 245-pound senior

LeBeau moves extremely well up front. He can fight off blocks, is great against the run and can rush the passer. He has five sacks this season to go with 19 solo and 32 total tackles.

Bill Ross/linebacker

Arkansas-Pine Bluff

6-2, 240-pound senior

Ross has good height and size, is fundamentally sound and knows how to stop the run because he’s a great tackler. Ross leads the SWAC in tackles with 65, which includes 33 solos tackles.

Brandon Thurmond/defensive lineman

Arkansas-Pine Bluff

6-2, 260-pound senior

Thurmond explodes off the defensive line and is able to get to the quarterback. He has great quickness, size and range, which makes him tough for most offensive linemen to block. He leads the SWAC with eight sacks and has 17 solo and 36 total tackles.

William Parker/linebacker

Texas Southern

6-0, 225-pound senior

Parker knows how to shut down the run. He moves well from sideline to sideline and can blitz as well by picking his spots. He has 28 solo and 53 total tackles.

Vernon Marshall/defensive back

Alabama A&M

5-11, 188-pound senior

Marshall runs with most receivers in the SWAC and can also play the run. He has 28 solo and 58 total tackles in addition to two sacks from the secondary.

Johnathan Billups/defensive tackle

Jackson State

6-1, 320-pound senior

Billups is a run-stopper. He takes up a lot of space along the defensive line, and it’s hard to get past him. Billups moves pretty well for a guy his size. Furthermore, his skills aren’t limited to just stopping the run. He can get to the quarterback with his push up the middle.

Deaunte Mason/quarterback

Alabama A&M

6-3, 209-pound senior

Mason has shown great leadership. He can throw from the pocket, and when the play breaks down, he can avoid the rush with his running ability in the open field. He has completed 108 of 168 passes for 1,353 yards, 12 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. He’s the leading passer in the SWAC.

Kaderius Lacey/running back

Alabama A&M

6-0, 218-pound senior

Lacey can run between the tackles and make people miss. He has a good enough burst to get to the outside and has been one of the most consistent running backs in the SWAC over the past two seasons. He has 119 carries for 694 yards and five TDs, averaging 5.8 yards a carry.

Rico Richardson/wide receiver

Jackson State

6-1, 185 pound senior

Richardson is a big-play receiver who can stretch the field. He’s a threat to score whenever gets in the open field, leading the SWAC with 41 receptions for 770 yards and six TDs. He averages 18.8 yards a catch.

Terren Jones/offensive tackle

Alabama State

6-7, 320 pound senior

Jones is a great run-blocker. He can move his feet and open up the big holes for running backs. There aren’t many offensive tackles as big as him. He’s a good pass-blocker, too.

Contact Donald Hunt with HBCU questions, comments or story ideas at dhunt37261@aol.com.