By Shawn Spencer @Spencer_NFL on August 19, 2014
The Sun Belt may be lacking star power in terms of teams and athletes, but that doesn't mean the conference should be ignored. There are many Sun Belt players capable of playing at the next level. Here are five of those players to watch on the defensive side of the ball.
Sterling Young had a very productive 2013 campaign as he posted 80 tackles and two interceptions for the Arkansas State defense. Unfortunately for Young, he played on a defense that gave up too many big plays through the air. The secondary, Young included, was slow to react all year to even the most basic routes. While he has potential, Young needs to improve his awareness in order to have a shot at being drafted.
Qushaun Lee, the leading tackler for the Red Wolves, returns for his senior season. Lee is a two-time defensive MVP in bowl games and may be the hardest hitter in the conference. He made 134 tackles in 2013 and is only 115 away from breaking the conference record. As part of a 4-2-5 defense, Lee does not have the responsibilities or reads he would in a 4-3 or 3-4. Lee likely won't be drafted, but he could find a role on special teams.
Mitch Lane may be best known for his performance against Arkansas in 2012. As a freshman, Lane broke up two passes in overtime to help the Warhawks defeat the No. 8 team in country. Now a junior, Lane will have more opportunities to shock the college football world as UL-Monroe takes on three SEC schools in 2014. If Lane can continue to play well against tough competition, he may work his way into the late rounds of the draft.
Hamilton is an extremely talented defensive tackle for the Ragin' Cajuns. He's surprisingly agile and overpowers interior linemen at times with his 310-pound frame. The issue has been getting Hamilton to display his talent consistently. While he did have four sacks and 38 tackles last season, he disappeared against pass-heavy offenses. Hamilton also has a red flag for a personal conduct penalty that led to an ejection and one-game suspension.
Prepare to hear the name Michael Orakpo often at the combine. The younger brother of NFL LB Brian Orakpo, Michael set records in Texas State's weight room and will wow scouts with his speed and leaping ability. On the field, Orakpo led the Bobcats with 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2013. He currently plays in the middle but is projected as an OLB in the NFL. His athleticism alone puts Orakpo in play for teams beginning in Round 3.
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