Conference USA is no stranger to the NFL with 72 players on active rosters at the end of the regular season. Scouts are constantly looking for the next CUSA player that will set the NFL on fire. One way to check out the prospects from Conference USA is during the Senior Bowl.
Currently, five players from Conference USA programs have been invited to the Senior Bowl. Vernon Butler (LA Tech), Kenneth Dixon (LA Tech), Jeff Driskel (LA Tech), Tyler Higbee (WKU), and Kevin Byard (MTSU) will all get their chance to shine and improve their draft grades.
Five players invited does not mean that no one was snubbed. Here are ten players from CUSA programs that should have been invited to the 2016 Senior Bowl:
1. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky: The 6-3 quarterback has been with the Hilltoppers for a very long time. Doughty racked up a plethora of awards and records during his tenure at WKU. The Florida native threw for over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in 2015. He ended his college career with 12,855 yards passing (#16 all time) and 111 touchdown passes (#15 all time). He will attend the East/West Shrine Game instead of the Senior Bowl.
2. Andrew Reue, Rice: At 6-4, 295 pounds, Reue has the ability to play any position on the offensive line. He was asked to do so many times, giving scouts at the next level plenty of game tape to study. The biggest question mark for the first team All-CUSA honoree comes back to his versatility. No one really knows if he is a guard or a center at the NFL level. A week of Senior Bowl practice would help significantly with that evaluation.
3. Trevon Coley, Florida Atlantic: Coley is a 300 pound defensive lineman that can move. He is very athletic for his size, proving it with 66 tackles, nine for loss, and six sacks in 2015. Coley can be the type of player that NFL teams bring in and develop into an important part of their defensive. Coley compiled 195 tackles, 24 for loss, 14 sacks, four fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles in his career. He will attend the East/West Shrine Game.
4. Richard Leonard, Florida International: This four year starter in the secondary for FIU had another great season in 2015, accumulating 62 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and one interception. He is among the best ever to play on defense for the Panthers with 196 career tackles, seven interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles. Leonard is also an electric return man, possibly his role early in his NFL career. The biggest worry NFL scouts have about him is is size (5'9").
5. T.T. Barber, Middle Tennessee: This athletic linebacker for the Blue Raiders had another impressive season in 2016 with 89 tackles, 11.5 for loss, four sacks, and a fumble recovery. The defense looked out of sorts in the Bahamas Bowl without Barber on the field due to injury. Barber has produced his entire career at Middle Tennessee, compiling 325 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, eight sacks, six interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and six forced fumbles.
6. Garrett Schwettman, Western Kentucky: There was a time before Schwettman when WKU fans would cringe at the thought of a field goal or PAT attempt. Schwettman came in an solidified that position, earning multiple accolades along the way. Schwettman ended his career 236-241 on PATs and 54-66 on field goal attempts. He was an impressive 15-16 on field goal attempts in 2015.
7. Kalan Reed, Southern Miss: The cornerback was solid during his first three years in Hattiesburg, but blew up in 2015 with 56 tackles, four for loss, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. He became a shut down corner and a team leader as a senior. Reed ended his career at Southern Miss with 152 tackles, 8.5 for loss, seven interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles. He also picked off this pass versus Charlotte.
8. Michael Thomas, Southern Miss: Thomas came in as a JUCO transfer in 2014 and had a solid season with 41 catches for 592 yards and five touchdowns. As a senior is when Thomas really made a name for himself, catching 71 passes for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 1,391 yards receiving put him in the top seven nationally. At 6-1, Thomas plays much bigger and is a great deep threat in the passing game. Expect to hear his name quite a bit in the coming months for his ability to make catches like this.
9. David Morgan, UTSA: Possibly the most illustrious player in UTSA's short history, Morgan made 22 starts for the Roadrunners during his career. He caught 45 passes for over 500 yards and five touchdowns as a senior. At 6-4, 260 pounds, he has the size to play tight end at the next level. Morgan ended his career at UTSA with 85 catches for 1,104 yards and eight touchdowns. He will attend the East/West Shrine Game.
10. Sebastian Johansson, Marshall: A three year starter at left guard for the Thundering Herd, the native of Sweden has the size to play at the next level. Johansson was a three year starter on the offensive line and earned All-CUSA honors as a senior. Johansson held his own versus solid competition, but he would benefit greatly from a week of one on ones in Senior Bowl practices.
Other players not on my list, but deserving of a look.
Jalen Richard (USM), Devon Johnson (Marshall), Michael Wakefield (FIU), Evan McKelvey (Marshall), Nick Holt (WKU), Ed Batties (MTSU).