Commentary

HBCU's NFL hopefuls

Originally Published: November 11, 2009
By Donald Hunt | Special to ESPN.com

There are some outstanding pro prospects in black college football this year. They haven't received a lot of face time on national television, and they may not be household names to most people, but their names could become more familiar in six months.

That's because there are some fine HBCU seniors who should receive invites to the postseason all-star games as well as the NFL Combine. In addition, they should have their names called on one of the two draft days in April.

If you look around the NFL, there are several HBCU players, including Visanthe Shiancoe (Minnesota Vikings, Morgan State), Donald Driver (Green Bay Packers, Alcorn State), Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis Colts, Howard), Kendall Langford (Miami Dolphins, Hampton), Jamaal Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles, Delaware State).

There are a number of players in this year's crop who could be playing on Sundays.

Running backs

William Ford, South Carolina State, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, senior:
Ford has been the best running back in the MEAC for the last four years. In fact, he has a chance to become the league's all-time leading rusher. He needs just 262 yards in the next two games to reach that mark. He has 4,400 career rushing yards. He has great speed in the open field. He can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He could be a Brian Westbrook-type player in the NFL.

Ulysses Banks, Alabama A&M, 5-11, 200 pounds, senior:
If Alabama A&M needs a yard or two, Banks can get it in so many ways. He has the quickness to get to the edge, he can run between the tackles. He has 754 yards with a good chance of going over 1,000 yards. He's also a very capable receiver. He averages an impressive 14.3 yards a catch. He deserves a good look.

LaMarcus Coker, Hampton, 5-10, 195 pounds, senior:
Coker showed flashes of brilliance last season. Most people saw the talent make some big plays on the ground. Coker really put it together this year and leads the MEAC in rushing with 919 yards. He has the ability to hit the holes quickly, which is very important in the NFL.

Quarterbacks

Bryant Lee, Southern, 6-0, 200 pounds, senior:
Lee has the ability to drop back and look for the open receiver. He's very comfortable in the pocket. With that said, he can scramble, too. He has great awareness. If the pocket is breaking down, he knows when to take off. He has completed 61.2 percent of his passes. He has thrown for 1,875 yards and 17 touchdown passes. He has good NFL skills.

Curtis Pulley, Florida A&M, 6-4, 200 pounds, senior:
Pulley has all the tools to be an NFL quarterback. First of all, he can run and throw in every sense of the words. He has rushed for 885 yards while scoring seven rushing touchdowns. He's thrown 17 TD passes while compiling 1,382 yards. He should open a lot of eyes during the pro days this spring.

Wide receivers

Oliver Young, South Carolina State, 6-0, 180 pounds, senior:
Young can really stretch the field. He knows how to get open on his routes and has the ability to come back to the ball and make plays. He averaged 13.3 yards a catch. His terrific play took a lot of pressure off All-American running back William Ford.

Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M, 6-0, 174 pounds, senior:
Harris is a big-play receiver. He has a great pair of hands. He can go up and make the spectacular catch in traffic. He can turn a short pass into a big gain. He can run the deep routes. Harris is one of the premiere receivers in the SWAC.

Juamorris Stewart, Southern, 6-3, 205 pounds, senior:
Stewart is a big receiver. He's a great target for any quarterback. He runs with power and speed. He knows how to use his size against most defensive backs. He can run the short routes as well as the deep ones. Stewart leads the SWAC in receptions with 61 catches for 799 yards and nine touchdowns.

Offensive lineman

Robert Okeafor, Florida A&M, 6-4, 320 pounds, senior:
Okeafor is a tremendous pass and run blocker. His pass blocking skills have allowed Curtis Pulley to have a huge year. He has the athletic ability to play offensive guard, too. His versatility should land him a spot in the league.

Defensive lineman

Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M, 6-0, 263 pounds, senior:
Maddox is a playmaking defensive end. He's not real big. Actually, he's a little undersized. But Maddox has great quickness and moves well laterally. He does a good job against the run. He is the best pass rusher in the conference. He leads the SWAC with 10.5 sacks.

Christian Anthony, Grambling State, 6-4, 275 pounds, senior:
Anthony is a great run stopper. He knows how to play the gaps. Anthony has 62 total tackles this season. He has great range and quickness. He can also get to the quarterback. He has five sacks this season.

Defensive Back

Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State, 6-2, 200 pounds, senior:
Whitehead is the most complete defensive player in the MEAC. He's capable of playing two positions in the secondary. Whitehead can tackle as well as cover the deep receiver. He could be a free safety in the league. He has good vision and reacts very well. He has great closing speed. He also has 56 total tackles this year.

Special Teams

LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M, 5-9, 185 pounds, senior:
Vann is the most exciting player in college football. He ranks No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision and No. 1 in the MEAC in punt returns. He averages 20.9 yards a return. He recently scored on a 51 yard punt return against North Carolina A&T, which was his fifth return TD of the season. He is the fifth player in the NCAA FCS history to have 1,000 yards in punt and kickoff returns.

HBCU notes

• SBN Sports Network released its latest Black College football poll:
1. South Carolina State
2. Prairie View A&M
3. Florida A&M
4. Tuskegee
5. Southern
6. Shaw
7. Grambling State
8. Albany State
9. Alabama A&M
10. Fayetteville State

• Prairie View A&M can win the SWAC Western Division and earn a berth in the championship game by winning at Alcorn State. The Panthers have won 10 consecutive SWAC games dating back to last season. Alcorn State plays its final home game of the season and controls its destiny and can win the East with victories in its final two games.

• Two-time defending Eastern Division champion Jackson State can earn its third straight championship berth with a win at Alabama A&M and with an Alcorn State loss. JSU has put together back-to-back wins to move to the top of the division. The Bulldogs need a win to keep their title hopes alive.

• When Tuskegee defeated Stillman 41-14 recently, the Golden Tigers captured their fourth straight Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship. Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater is 40-5 in four years at Tuskegee and he has won the conference title each year.

• Norfolk State running back DeAngelo Branche was selected as the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week. Branche picked up a season-high 145 yards on 19 carries with a rushing touchdown as the Norfolk State defeated Morgan State 31-23.

• Delaware State defensive back Jerome Strums was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Strums recorded two turnovers in the Hornets 24-21 win over Winston-Salem State.

• Arkansas-Pine Bluff running back Mickey Dean was named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Week. Dean rushed 20 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns and added a TD pass in the Golden Lions' 49-42 win over Grambling State.

• Texas Southern defensive lineman Rashad Hunt was chosen as the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. Hunt made four tackle (1.5 TFL), with two sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass breakup in the Tigers; 30-7 win at Mississippi Valley State.

Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. You can reach him at dhunt37261@aol.com.