Here’s a look at some players to keep an eye in the Sun Belt Conference who could make an impact this college football season:
Jordan Chunn, RB, Troy
The Buzz: Chunn was one of four tailbacks in the Sun Belt to finish the season with at least 1,000 yards rushing last season and one of just two of those players to return in 2017. He earned first-team, all-conference honors after setting career marks in attempts (279), rushing yards (1,288) and rushing touchdowns (16) and his 1,516 yards from scrimmage was tops in the league.
Joe Dillon, DL, Louisiana
The Buzz: Louisiana’s defense made dramatic improvements on the defensive side of the football last season, knocking nearly six points per game off its average from the previous season thanks in part to Dillon, who led the team in sacks (7.0). Unfortunately for the Ragin’ Cajuns, Dillon was one of 13 players arrested back in April for theft. The charges were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.
Clifton Duck, CB, Appalachian State
The Buzz: Duck put together a tremendous freshman season, one in which he finished second in the league in interceptions (5) while among the league leaders in passes defended (13) for an Appalachian State secondary that was third in the conference in pass defense. He also returned punts for the Mountaineers, averaging 4.6 yards per return last season.
Matt Linehan, QB, Idaho
The Buzz: Linehan set career-marks in completions (257), passing yards (3,184) and passing touchdowns (19) last season while leading the Vandals to on the best passing offenses in the Sun Belt. Along the way, the team doubled its win total from 4-wins in 2015 to 9-wins in 2016. As one of just four returning starters on offense, he’ll need another big season as the program wraps up its last season in the FBS.
Bryan London, LB, Texas State
The Buzz: Texas State finished at the bottom of the Sun Belt in defense through no fault of London, who led the league in solo tackles (88) while amassing 141 total tackles – the second-most in the nation as a freshman. He finished with 8.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles for the Bobcats and figures to be a big piece of the program’s revival under coach Everett Withers.
Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State
The Buzz: For the third consecutive season a running back at Appalachian State rushed for more than 1,400 yards in a season as Moore joined Marcus Cox in the feat. His 1,402 yards was tops in the Sun Belt last season and earned him the league’s Offensive Player of the Year honors. His career 6.3 yards per carry average is the sixth best overall in the league since 2011.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, DL, Arkansas State
The Buzz: In a rare feat, Rolland-Jones became the first defensive player to win the Sun Belt Player of the Year award since North Texas defensive lineman Brandon Kennedy did so in 2003. He did so after leading the league in sacks (13.0) and tackles for loss (21.0) for a team that went from an 0-4 start to go on to win a least a share of the conference title for the second straight season.
Larry Rose III, RB, New Mexico State
The Buzz: A year after earning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year honors after leading the league in rushing with 1,647 yards, Rose struggled with injuries that limited him to just 865 yards in nine games. In four of those, he managed to rush for at least 100 yards including a season-high 170 yards in the team’s season finale loss to South Alabama.
Brandon Silvers, QB, Troy
The Buzz: Silvers finished the season as the league leaders in several passing categories including attempts (460), completions (293) and passing touchdowns (23) as the Trojans offense went from averaging 28 points per game in 2015 to 34 points in 2016. His consistency over the past couple of seasons makes him one of the favorites to capture the league’s player of the year honors.
Emanuel Thompson, WR, Troy
The Buzz: Thompson nearly tripled his production from the previous season after leading the team in receptions (80), receiving yards (820) and yards per game (63.1). The senior is one of three receivers back on offense as Troy returns a league-high nine starters on offense from a group that led the league in scoring (34 points per game) and passing offense (261 yards per game) last season.