You’ve reached the part of the Sun Belt Top 30 players countdown where nothing but All-First Team candidates and potential league MVPs reside.
These are the talents that are difference-makers with at least flashes of NFL potential...
12. Shai Werts/QB/Georgia Southern
Even before the Sun Belt’s most infamous bird poop situation went down, Shai Werts was arguably the hardest single player in Sun Belt to evaluate when it comes to comparing him to the rest of the league.
He’s a dynamic athlete, who rushed for just under 1,000 at quarterback, found the end zone 25 times and did not throw a single interception all season last year. Will teams adjust and force Werts to make more plays through the air?
If he remains careful with the ball and continues to spearhead an option running game that gave opponents fits in 2018, Werts could easily ascend as a Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year candidate.
Still, it remains to be seen if any suspensions will be handed down from the recent incident. Missed time could mean a missed opportunity for Werts and Georgia Southern alike.
11. Elijah Mitchell/RB/Louisiana
Mitchell returns to Lafayette as the team’s second leading rusher - yardage-wise.
However, his 985 yards on the ground were at a team-best 6.7 yards per clip and 13 scores topped his teammate Trey Ragas. Pro scouts have to love both his production out of the backfield as a receiver as well as his penchant for the breakaway score.
Expect Mitchell’s stats to be somewhat modest based on the crowded amount of talent in the Louisiana backfield.
But also expect improvement from the junior who knows how to set up his blockers in front of him and find daylight in a hurry.
10. Corey Sutton/WR/Appalachian State
Appalachian State has big plans this year.
Those plans, however, don’t fully come to fruition unless Sutton is on the field and making Zac Thomas’ life easier.
The junior was arrested this past June for marijuana possession and any potential game-related punishment is still pending.
When in the field, the one-time Kansas State transfer is electric. With 44 catches, 773 yards receiving and 10 receiving touchdowns, he is their best weapon Thomas has in the passing game.
And a good passing game means you can start making big plans for 2019.
9. Jordan Fehr/LB/Appalachian State
As I was saying, App State has big plans this year.
A defense that looks as promising as this will raise those stakes. Linebacker Jordan Fehr is a big reason for that optimism.
Fehr racked up 86 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a junior, which landed him First Team All-Sun Belt honors. He is looking for a curtain call.
Fehr, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Noel Cook make for one of the most formidable linebacking units in all of the Group of 5 and beyond.
8. BJ Smith/RB/Troy
Let the debate begin when it comes to the best running back in the Sun Belt.
Smith is a versatile back who plays strong and fast.
Especially the fast part.
More will fall on Smith than any other single running back for his team in the Sun Belt for 2019. Troy will go as Smith goes.
Running for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018 was impressive. Watch him put out even stronger numbers in 2019.
7. Darrynton Evans/RB/Appalachian State
When all-league back Jalin Moore went down with a season-ending injury, Evans provided a dynamic solution.
He rushed for 1,187 yards on the ground, the top total in the Sun Belt - impressive considering he did not start every game - and seven touchdowns. Evans was also named MVP of the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Championship Game.
He also ranked second nationally in kickoff return yards per return (32.7), including a 100-yard kickoff to the house against Penn State in last year’s opener to show how tough it is to take him down.
He’s a junior with a giant future. If stays healthy, expect him to be near or at the top of this countdown when 2020 comes around.