Our countdown of the Top 30 Sun Belt players entering the 2019 season rolls on with No. 18-24, listed in tantalizing, dramatic backwards order...
24. Tyree Turner/DE/South Alabama
There will be a lot of sleepless nights for opposing quarterbacks with Turner looming.
The stats only say four sacks all of last season, but his presence has been felt far beyond that bottom line number. The senior has been steadily improving and is a load at 305 pounds coming around the corner.
If he starts dominating for the first half of the Sun Belt season, it would not be surprising to see NFL scouts popping by to take a look if Turner makes sense doing the same on Sundays.
23. Monquavion Brinson/CB/Georgia Southern
The Eagles have the best cornerback duo in the Sun Belt.
Brinson brings grit as both a noteworthy cover corner. He is Georgia Southern’s leading returning tackler without a hesitation to stick his nose into the chest of running backs.
With the guy on the opposite side of the field (hello, Kindle Vildor) getting much of the early season attention, expect teams to try and test Brinson instead.
22. Josh Thomas/S/Appalachian State
According to a few reports, new Appalachian State head Eli Drinkwitz said Thomas is trying to make an early impact on the team for 2019 with his voice.
Though the Mountaineers clearly have plenty of talent, vocal senior leadership will be important as command of the S.S. Boone is transitioned over.
Thomas has earned the right to make a vocal impact. His play has been stellar. He tied for the team lead in 2018 with four interceptions and provided plenty of support in the running game.
If Thomas can get off to a big start, that will only make that leading voice impact more and more Mountaineers as the season rolls along.
21. Marcel Murray/RB/Arkansas State
Losing a Conference Player of the Year is never easy.
Losing a two-time Conference Player of the Year is downright tricky. However, as a new stAte quarterback sets up behind center where Justice Hansen was just located, Red Wolves fans can rest easier knowing there is an explosive back even further behind that new starting quarterback.
Reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year tallied 1,015 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns and figures to be leant on early in 2019 for even more production.
If Murray can continue to grow as a receiver out of the backfield, Blake Andersen may never want to take Murray off the field. Feed him early, coach.
20. Raymond Johnson III/DE/Georgia Southern
This junior is dangerous.
After a 4.5-sack campaign last year and a physical impression made on the entire Sun Belt, Johnson was named to the Preseason Sun Belt All-First Team for 2019.
The junior made an impact as they switched to a 3-4 system last season. With two of the most talented cornerbacks in the league, a big year for Johnson getting to opposing quarterbacks will most certainly mean more rushed passes and more turnovers for the Eagle defense.
Johnson’s development will be one of the keys to Georgia Southern making even more positive strides after last year’s leap forward.
19. Forrest Merrill/DT/Arkansas State
It’s hard to miss a 6’1”, 338-pound lineman - even on a football field filled with large collegiate men.
Sun Belt opponents will surely be scheming to keep an eye or two on Merrill and how to effectively run the ball away from him in 2019.
Or they should, at least.
After transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M a year prior, Merrill put up 58 tackles and 4.5 sacks which netted him a Second-Team All-Sun Belt distinction. He has a motor that keeps him in most plays.
With a lot of talented running backs starring in the Sun Belt this season, Merrill will surely have his chances to impact a game right from the point of attack.