Southland Conference draft class impresses

(STATS) – That former Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe has won the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award for two straight seasons underscores the Southland Conference’s reputation as an offensive conference.

But the prospects for next week’s NFL draft indicate defensive and special teams talent are particularly in demand this year.

Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall has been one of the bigger risers on draft boards in the last month after testing well at his pro day. The 6-foot, 308-pounder has impressive speed for his size – 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash – and power – 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press – with the versatility to be moved across the line. He generally played defensive end with the Bearkats, cranking out an FCS-career record 86 1/2 tackles for loss as well as 42 sacks and 14 blocked kicks.

“He is so explosive and does not get fooled by what blockers are doing,” said Hall’s college defensive line coach Rod Wright, who played four seasons in the NFL. “He recognizes blocks well, and is going to be a tough for anyone whether he is playing inside or outside.”

Earlier in evaluations for the April 26-28 draft, Franklin rose after impressing at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the NFL combine. The 6-4, 283-pounder, who has an 82-inch wingspan, was clocked at 4.75 seconds in the 40 with 26 reps on the bench press at the combine.

Like Hall and Franklin, Central Arkansas cornerback Tremon Smith, one of the fastest candidates at the position, and Southeastern Louisiana defensive end Sione Teuhema will be considered for day three of the draft.

Incarnate Word’s Joe Zema also is considered the top punter prospect coming out of the FCS. Punters aren’t drafted often, but two years ago Sam Houston State’s Lachlan Edwards was a seventh-round pick of the New York Jets.

Hall, Smith, Teuhema and Zema made the 2017 STATS FCS All-America first team after their senior seasons.

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