Jeremy St. Louis (LOO-ee) is the sports anchorman for beIN SPORTS’ coverage of Conference USA football games and he took time from his busy day to share with me his comprehensive familiarity with the league and five of its top players.
I selected the players and simple questions and Jeremy did the rest.
Jaylon Ferguson, La Tech defensive end
Bobby: Jaylon is a 6'5”, 255 pound sophomore who has 20 solo tackles, 12 sacks, and three forced fumbles. Do you think he's the best of the young defensive players in Conference USA?
Jeremy: “Jaylon is an unbelievable player for Louisiana Tech. There are some really good defensive players in the Conference, but Jaylon leads Conference USA in sacks, he's third in tackles for a loss, and he doubled his stats from last year to this.”
He rattled all of that information directly from memory. I was impressed. Okay—-yes—-I was intimidated yet even more convinced that Jeremy knows Conference USA very well.
Bobby: Do you think he's likely to go pro after his junior year?
Jeremy: “He might go pro after his junior year if he does the same thing with his stats next year.”
He sees Ferguson as one of the best defensive linemen in the country and added, “Especially if his stats go up against Power Five teams, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Aaron Jones, UTEP running back
Despite a career riddled with injuries, Jones is the nation's 6th-ranked rusher with 1,397 yards while averaging 7.3 ypc. With good speed at 5'10”, 215 pounds, he is hard to catch and hard to tackle which explains how he has rushed for over 225 yards twice this season.
I asked Jeremy his thoughts on this talented running back and whether he thought Jones' history of injuries would keep him from being drafted by the NFL.
Jeremy: “It’s always difficult to predict the draft status of players from the smaller conferences. You look at Doughty (Brandon Doughty, formerly of Western Kentucky). He’s in the pros. He’s not playing, but he was drafted. So with Jones, he has the talent and the vision. He’s a fantastic player and a game-changer. So yes, I think he is a draft prospect.”
It is common for Conference USA to have high-stat quarterbacks but I wondered if they are not as highly valued by the NFL because they play in a smaller conference.
Jeremy reasoned that may not be as much of a factor with quarterbacks because C-USA is viewed as a quarterback’s conference and it has a history of its quarterbacks being drafted.
Here are his thoughts on three of C-USA's top quarterback prospects:
Mike White, Western Kentucky
Bobby: Mike White is rated the 29th quarterback prospect for the NFL which seems odd since he has over 3,000 yards passing. He's a junior so that number will get better, but what do you think of what he's done at Western Kentucky?
Jeremy: “He's done such a great job; way more than anyone expected. He comes in and takes over and it's like there has been no change to the Western Kentucky offense. The good part is that he makes good reads and he makes the throws. I’m anxious to see what he does next year.”
White is a junior and could declare for the NFL at the conclusion of this season but it seems unlikely he will do so since this is his first year as a starter.
Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech
Higgins is a senior who has over 3,400 passing yards and over 300 yards rushing.
Bobby: Ryan is 6’2” and over 200 pounds and he has thrown 34 touchdown passes with just four interceptions. He has four games with over 400 yards passing. Do you think he might be a high draft choice?
Jeremy: “Well, not a first round pick, but he can make the throws. He’s effective on third downs and he sees what defenses are trying to do. But, it’s what he’s done against the Power Five teams that tells me he can play on Sundays.”
He referred to his beIN SPORTS associate Donovan McNabb, a former professional quarterback and ESPY award winner as NFL Player of the Year in 2005 who believes that third-down efficiency is a key factor in determining a college quarterback’s readiness for professional football.
Jeremy: “Donovan will tell you that the thing to look for in quarterbacks is third-down conversions. As a quarterback, that’s the down you get payed for. You have to make a really good throw or come up with the big play. Ryan Higgins is over 52% in third-down conversions. That’s impressive.”
He also acknowledged that Louisiana Tech moves the ball so well that Higgins hasn’t had to face as many third downs as most.
Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
Okay, so I’ll admit that Nick has had a tough year and hasn’t even been a starter lately due to injury. But, I cover Southern Miss football, so how could I leave him out? Besides, I wrote a feature about Nick on my webpage (aciventura.com) before the season and I was eager to get Jeremy’s opinion on why 2016 has been a year of recession.
Bobby: Nick has worked so hard to build himself from a quarterback that almost no one recruited to become all-conference last year. If the players are the same but the coaches are new, do you think the change in coaching has caused problems?
Jeremy: “With Nick, it’s surprising. Change of coaches? I suppose that could be it. A change of philosophy probably has something to do with it. That’s probably why he doesn’t seem to be in his comfort zone. I thoroughly expected him to be at the top of the Conference USA charts.
“I see Nick a lot the same as Kurt Cousins because Nick has an NFL arm and he has good fundamentals. But, it’s been a disappointing year for Nick so even with that arm, I’m not sure right now what the NFL scouts think of his chances in the NFL.”
I wondered if Mullens’ value might also be diminished by his being 6’1” and under 200 pounds but Jeremy didn’t think that would be an important factor.
We are grateful for Jeremy St. Louis and beIN SPORTS for their close association with SB Nation and Underdog Dynasty.
I will have a special feature on Jeremy St. Louis later this week telling his interesting personal story and a career that has taken him all over the world and given him one-on-one interviews with elite athletes such as David Beckham.