Commentary

HBCU players who could play in NFL

Updated: November 3, 2010, 10:57 AM ET
By Donald Hunt | Special to ESPN.com

The college football season will end in another four weeks.

For a number of players in the MEAC and SWAC, their playing careers will be over. But that's not the case for everybody. There are a number of NFL prospects in each conference. Some of these players could hear their names called on draft day. Others could find their way onto NFL rosters as free agents.

Black college football doesn't have the quality of players they had 30 or 40 years ago. There's no question about that. However, there are still plenty of NFL players from the MEAC and SWAC such as Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M, Indianapolis Colts), Antoine Bethea (Howard, Indianapolis Colts), Justin Durant (Hampton, Jacksonville Jaguars), Donald Driver (Alcorn State, Green Bay Packers) and others.

NFL general managers and player personnel executives should be making a lot of trips to HBCU campuses around the country. These players are coached by some of the best coaches in the nation who don't get enough credit. Joe Taylor (Florida A&M), Buddy Pough (South Carolina State), Rod Broadway (Grambling State) and Rick Comegy (Jackson State) have done an outstanding job of developing these players over their careers.

This year's crop of HBCU players should be invited to the NFL combine as well as other postseason all-star games. Furthermore, there's a good chance some of these players could be playing on Sundays next season.

Quarterback

K.J. Black, Prairie View A&M

Black was a preseason player-of-the-year selection in the SWAC. A year ago, he led the Panthers to the conference title. This season, he got off to a slow start because of a knee injury. It took him a few weeks to round into shape. Despite the injury, Black has completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 1,609 yards and eight touchdowns. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, he has the size and ability to play at the next level.

Matt Johnson, Bethune-Cookman

Matt Johnson has been one of the most impressive players in the FCS. Johnson can beat you in so many ways. He has the patience in the pocket to find his receivers. But when the pocket begins to break down, he can explode for a big play with his feet. He throws the short pass. He throws the deep ball. Johnson has rushed for 632 yards on 106 carries with seven touchdowns. He has completed 108 of 164 passes for 1,590 yards and 11 TDs. He's a big reason why Bethune-Cookman is on top in the MEAC. Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder, know show to get it done.

Running backs

Frank Warren, Grambling State

Warren is one of the best running backs in college football at any level. The 6-0, 200-pounder, can run inside as well as outside. He's capable of scoring just about any time he carries the football. Warren has passed Hall of Famer Walter Payton at No. 5 on the SWAC's all-time leading rusher list with 3,608 yards. He has 179 carries for 1,235 yards and 14 TDs. He averages 154.4 yards a game and has 16 receptions for 131 yards with one TD.

DeAngelo Branche, Norfolk State

Branche has been one of the most consistent backs in the MEAC. He knows how to get the tough yards and runs extremely well between the tackles. He's been a big-play guy who can catch the ball coming out of the backfield (12 receptions for 39 yards). Branche, a 5-foot-11, 200-pounder, has picked up 776 yards on 178 carries while scoring seven touchdowns. He has gained 3,124 career yards with a 4.8 yard-per-carry-average.

Donald Babers, Prairie View A&M

Babers is a good open-field runner. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder, hits the holes very quickly and knows when to cut back and turn a small gain into a big one. Babers has rushed for 689 yards on 181 carries. and is also a great receiver (21 catches for 128 yards).

Wide receivers

Raymond Webber, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Webber is a big-play receiver who has great speed. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, runs terrific routes and can catch just about anything that's thrown in his direction. Last week, he became Arkansas-Pine Bluff's all-time leading receiver with nine catches for 243 yards and one TD in a losing effort to Grambling State. He set a career mark with 150 catches. He leads the SWAC with 71 receptions for 1,019 yards and eight TDs.

Shaun Stephens, Prairie View A&M

Stephens is a small receiver at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. Although he's diminutive in size, there are some little receivers in the NFL. He has great quickness and can run deep routes. He knows how to find the open holes in the defense. Stephens is the second leading receiver in the SWAC. He has 51 receptions for 694 yards and six TDs and could be a possession receiver in the NFL.

Anthony Mayes, Jackson State

Mayes has played a major role in Jackson State's high-scoring offense. He averages 18.3 yards a catch. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder, is one of the SWAC's game-breaking receivers. He has 30 receptions for 549 yards and five TDs and has the quickness to strectch the field and come up with some big catches.

Offensive linemen

Johnny Culbreath, South Carolina State

Culbreath has good size and strength. The 6-foot-6, 280-pounder, can open up a lot of holes and has been one of the best offensive linemen in the MEAC over the last two years.

William Falakiseni, Norfolk State

Falakiseni plays his position as well, if not better, than any player in the country. The Spartans 6-foot-2, 315-pound center is an excellent run and pass blocker. It's hard to get around him.

Kendall Noble, Norfolk State

Noble has played extremely well at left tackle. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder, has been a major factor in helping DeAngelo Branche become one of the Spartans' all-time leading rushers. He has good size and strength at his position.

Antonio Colston, Jackson State

Colston is a great pass blocker, and the offensive line has played a big role in the Tigers brilliant passing game. Colston, a 6-foot-2, 295-pounder, does a good job of moving his feet.

Defensive linemen

Kenrick Ellis, Hampton

Ellis is high on a number of NFL draft lists. He could be a first-or second-round pick with some great workouts in the spring. Ellis, a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder, averages 10.3 tackles a game and is a very difficult player to block with his talent.

Andre Caroll, Delaware State

Caroll, a good pass rusher, is a player who has improved each year. He's a 6-2, 280-pounder who has four sacks this season. He also plays the run very well and has 73 total tackles.

Quinton Spears, Prairie View A&M

Spears uses his range and quickness to make plays. He's not one of the biggest defensive linemen in the SWAC, but the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder can really get to the quarterback ( four sacks). He's also a good hitter with 55 total tackles.

Linebackers

Brandon Peguese, Hampton

Peguese is one of those playmaking linebackers. He leads the MEAC with seven sacks and has 65 total tackles. The 6-foot-1, 250-pounder, doesn't miss many plays whether they're in his area or not. He can guard tight ends and run with running backs in pass coverage.

Darius Johnson, Hampton

Johnson has a great nose for the ball. He knows how to read and make plays. A 6-foot-1, 220-pounder, he moves laterally very well. He has 70 total tackles and 30 solo this year. He has ability to cover a lot of ground with his speed.

David Erby, South Carolina State

Erby is a linebacker who can drop back in coverage and play the pass very well. He has great anticipation against the run. A 6-0, 220-pounder, he has 59 total tackles and 42 solo.

Brandon Jackson, North Carolina A&T

Jackson is always around the football. He knows when to blitz. He picks his spots very well. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder has 2.5 sacks, is a good tackler and has 77 total tackles, including 34 solo.

Defensive backs

Chris Adingupu, Prairie View A&M

Adingupu does a nice job of coming up and playing the run. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, has good closing speed in pass coverage. He has 66 total tackles and 34 solo.

Derrick Wilhite, Grambling State

Wilhite is a real hitter in the secondary. He knows how to turn the running plays inside. Wilhite, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, has 50 total tackles and 30 solo.

HBCU notes

• Bethune-Cookman QB Matt Johnson has been chosen as the MEAC offensive Player of the Week. Johnson connected on 9-of-12 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown to help the Wildcats to a 67-17 win over North Carolina A&T.

• Howard's Keith Pough and South Carolina State's David Erby were named MEAC co-defensive Players of the Week. Pough collected 13 total tackles, 12 solo, with five for a loss of 13 yards in Howard's one point loss to Norfolk State. Erby sparked the Bulldogs' defense with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown in South Carolina State's 38-21 victory over Delaware State.

• Arkansas-Pine Bluff WR Raymond Webber was named the SWAC offensive Player of the Week. Webber caught nine passes for a school record 243 yards and a touchdown in the Golden Lions' 35-25 loss to Grambling State.

• Alabama State defensive back Donovan Masline was selected as the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. Masline earned defensive MVP honors at the Magic City Classic with two interceptions and 63 return yards.

Philip Sylvester moved up to fourth on Florida A&M's all-time leading rusher list after recording 192 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns in the Rattlers' 31-17 win over Morgan State.

• Alabama State placekicker Andrew Lyons was named the SWAC special teams Player of the Week. Lyons remained perfect on the season in PAT kicks (20-for-20) connecting on four attempts in Alabama State's 31-10 victory over Alabama A&M in the Magic City Classic. He also had a 41-yard field goal.

• South Carolina State linebacker Latarius Douglas was selected as the MEAC special teams Player of the Week. Douglas blocked a punt and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown in the Bulldogs' win over Delaware State.

• Grambling State remains No. 1 in the SBN Sports Black College Football Poll. The Tigers have a 7-1 record.

Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. His HBCU Notebook on ESPN.com can be found here. Got a story idea for Hunt? E-mail him at dhunt37261@aol.com.