In the last couple decades especially, there seems to be a lack of NFL attention given to athletes that attend the country’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Nine separate drafts have come and gone without a single player from an HBCU drafted. Just one came off the board in 2020.
Although a majority of the 2020 college football season was canceled due to the pandemic, the 2021 fall showcased an awfully talented group of prospects. While HBCU alumni litter front offices, the perceived drop in competition compared to bigger conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC has historically worked against HBCUs and smaller-conference schools.
However, events like the annual Cricket Celebration Bowl and HBCU Combine ahead of the Reese’s Senior Bowl in partnership with the NFL, have placed a spotlight on some of the country’s most unheralded talent.
There are plenty of legends of the game who initially made their names at HBCUs. From Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Walter Payton (Jackson State), Michael Strahan (Texas Southern) and Doug Williams (Grambling State) to more recent standouts in Darius Leonard and Javon Hargrave (South Carolina State), Terron Armstead (Arkansas Pine-Bluff) and Tarik Cohen (NC A&T), the talent is there. With the collegiate season right around the corner, here are a few defensive players with HBCU ties to keep an eye on moving into the fall.
*Not all players are draft eligible
Isaiah Land, EDGE, Florida A&M
After recording nearly 20.0 sacks last season, Land has progressed into one of the more polarizing FCS prospects on either side of the ball. His play strength and weight remain a long-term project, but the Rattlers’ premier defender has all the tools necessary to dominate once again this fall and assert himself as a name to watch heading into the NFL draft process.
Jordan Lewis, EDGE, Southern
One of the smoothest athletes in the entire FCS, Lewis can push the pocket with the best of them. A primary speed rusher that uses his flexibility well to dip his inside shoulder against longer, more physical offensive tackles, Lewis is a name to watch this fall if he can put it all together.
Esaias Guthrie, SAF, Delaware State
One of the top safeties among HBCU programs, Guthrie is long, lean and touts a similar frame to that of former Florida A&M and 2022 Dallas Cowboys UDFA Markquese Bell. The Hornets’ defense will be one to follow closely this fall with defensive back Charles Peeler and defensive lineman Isaiah Williams pushing for NFL scouts’ attention. Williams’ brother, Charles, is currently a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
B.J. Bohler, CB, Florida A&M
A 5-foot-9 playmaker, Bohler is a ballhawk for the Rattlers’ defense. His immediate NFL projection could be limited to the nickel spot but the uber-versatile defender has made it a habit of finding the football wherever he aligns. Bohler was named first-team All-SWAC last fall.
Sundiata Anderson, EDGE, Grambling State
A riser to watch this fall, Anderson has an NFL-ready frame at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. Still just a junior, he’ll continue to add mass in the weight room over the next two seasons. A versatile prospect that has the ability to win in a multitude of ways off the edge, Anderson will face increased double teams after a successful 2021 campaign that will only help improve his well-rounded skill set.
Jeblonski Green Jr, DL, South Carolina State
Arguably the top defender in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Green can play up and down the defensive line at 265 pounds. Built more like a linebacker, Green is a powerful pass rusher that uses his hands extremely well and he understands the intricate details of anchoring and shedding blockers in the run. He and Patrick Godbolt will keep offensive coordinators up at night.
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