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Postby TURKEYCREEK on Fri Jul 27, 2007 6:04 pm

SoCon Rising Stars

By Josh Buchanan FCS Writer

FCS writer Josh Buchanan lists a rising star for each of the schools in the Southern Conferece.

Appalachian State - It is hard to imagine that a sophomore-to-be could already be labeled a star. What is even tougher to imagine is that this player is a leading name in the FCS. Last season, the nation saw a glimpse of Mountaineer quarterback Armanti Edwards. Expect him to be a Payton Watch candidate in the preseason or to earn a spot on the list by the end of the year. Other ASU players to watch who are not quite as easy to pick include wide receiver Josh Johnson, defensive end Tony Robertson, linebackers Cam Speer and Jacque Roman, and offensive linemen Nick Sloan and Mario Acitelli. If wide receiver Reynaldo Hunter is able to put grade issues behind him and see playing time, he could be a star. Hunter was one of the top players in the state of South Carolina coming out of high school. He is the type of speedy wideout that ASU has been known for putting on the field as of late.

Chattanooga - Junior running back Erroll Wynn should see much more action with the graduation of NFL Draft prospect and All-SoCon performer Eldra Buckley. He averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per carry last year. Senior defensive lineman Charles Profit underachieved according to how the coaches felt he could have performed last year. Expect him to have a much better season than his 4.5 tackles for loss from last season indicate. Profit has the physical tools to be one of the best in the league. Now he just has to put it all together. Other players who the staff feel could have a breakout year are quarterback Antonio Miller and offensive tackles Brandon Bellamy and Sam Bentley.

Elon - Senior quarterback Wes Pope earned All-SoCon honors last year so why am I including him in the rising star group? He was an unknown last year after moving from tight end and he possesses very good size for the position. He could be a player that the NFL takes a long look at if he has a big year. Junior linebacker Corey Weaver showed flashes of stardom last season and should have the chance to fully blossom with the graduation of All-American linebacker Chad Nkang. Sophomore wide receiver Terrell Hudgins had an All-American season last year and should establish himself not only as a top player in the nation but a future NFL prospect with the return of Pope. Senior defensive back Chris Bland defended eight passes last year, with four of them being interceptions, and he is expected to be one of the best safeties in the league this season.

Furman - This program has been known for having all-conference defensive backs every year. This season they return a player who could be the best unknown player in the entire conference in junior cornerback William Middleton. A fast, shutdown corner type, Middleton should really excel in 2007. Senior defensive end Wallace Artis is an impressive athlete who started last season and should only improve. Rising junior offensive tackle Joel Bell could be one of the best in the nation this season. The 6'7, 305-pounder has the ability to play at the next level if he works hard. Senior center/guard Reggie Goolsby appears to be primed for a breakout year where he could be considered among the top linemen in the league.

Georgia Southern - Junior cornerback Brandon Jackson earned All-SoCon honors last season but expect an All-American year from him in '07. Jackson, a former Central Michigan transfer, shows the speed and athletic ability to be a dominant force in the FCS. Sophomore linebacker Terrione Benefield should be expected to step up with All-American John Mohring gone. Senior guard Marcelo Estrada is one to watch after starting the last two seasons. Junior defensive tackle Branden Daniel, a Florida transfer, is likely to have a big year in '07 after posting 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks during his sophomore campaign.

The Citadel - Senior center Chris McDowell was one of the top linemen on the team last year and appears to be ready for All-SoCon accolades this season. McDowell, a former tackle, was very impressive in his first year as the starting center. Junior guard John Muirhead is another player to keep an eye on. The coaches felt he showed all-league potential last year and could be a sleeper for 2nd team All-SoCon honors at the end of this season. Senior running back Tory Cooper led the team with 807 yards and eight rushing touchdowns rushing last year and should get more carries since Nuru Goodrum is graduating.

Western Carolina - Senior wide receiver Michael Hines has looked good in the spring so far and should be the top target for quarterbacks Todd Spitzer and Adam Hearns throughout the rest of the spring and the fall. Running back Willie Harper could be one to watch when he gives Mike Malone a breather. He has looked very good in the spring so far, showing he can make the defender miss. Junior kicker Jonathan Parsons has been very good in spring drills and should be one of the better kickers in the league. Senior defensive end Darren Curtis and junior offensive linemena James Singletary are two players to keep an eye on. Singletary has solid upside after moving from tight end for the 2006 season.

Wofford - Defenisve end Layton Baker saw his season end early last year with an injury and has missed much of the spring with injuries. If he can stay healthy, however, look for him to have an impact this year. Senior linebacker Kyle Horne and junior linebacker Seth Goldwire will have to step up with the graduation of All-SoCon linebacker Justin Franklin. Expect both of them to have an impact not only in production but as leaders of the defense. Center Corey McKenna and tackle Derek Wooten should also be among the top players in the league at their respective positions.
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