If the 2022 college football season is anything like the 2021 season, it’s going to fly by all too quickly.
In the spirit of that, let’s talk NFL Draft. While the Sun Belt may not be the biggest producer of NFL talent when compared to other leagues, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a few valuable pieces in the league this year. Plus, with the additions of four new teams, the league is even deeper than it has been in recent years.
As a disclaimer, obviously not all of these players are definitely going to draft at this point. However, they will all be eligible for the draft after the 2022 season, if they are not already eligible.
Keep an eye on these names in the Sun Belt as they pad their resumes for the pro level.
QB Grayson McCall – Coastal Carolina
McCall was one of those players that would have been one of the first quarterbacks taken in the 2022 draft, he had chosen not to return to school. In his time with the Chanticleers, he’s frequently displayed exceptional ability in the pocket and throwing on the move. It’s a stretch to call him a running quarterback, but he can move quite well when he needs to.
In 2021, McCall was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and was an All-Sun Belt first team for the second straight year. His other 2021 accolades included Pro Football Network Sun Belt QB of the Year, Phil Steele Sun Belt Conference All-Conference first team, Pro Football Network All-Sun-Belt first team, Maxwell Award semifinalist, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award semifinalist, and more.
His 2020 accolades look very similar. With a college resume that’s already tough to fit on one page, it’s no wonder he’s at the top of this list.
TE Zack Kuntz – Old Dominion
At 6’8 ”and 240 pounds, Kuntz is a natural red zone target. Kuntz was a grad transfer to ODU after playing three seasons at Penn State. Kuntz’s ability as a pass catcher wasn’t put on display until he joined the Monarchs, when he caught 73 balls for 692 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Those 73 catches were the second-most in the nation among tight ends. For his efforts, Kuntz was a First-Team All-Conference USA selection and earned the same honor from Phil Steele. Kuntz was also named a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.
Kuntz quickly became one of the main selling points of an Old Dominion offense that began to really click in the second half of the season. It’s hard to imagine not being the case once again this season, along with Kuntz showing he’s one of the most pro-ready tight ends in the G5.
LB Carlton Martial – Troy
Martial returns to Troy for a fifth season in 2022. Martial is traditionally undersized at 5’9 “and 210 pounds, but it hasn’t stopped him from racking up tackles in college after starting his career as a walk-on. Martial is the nation’s leading tackler since the start of the 2018 season and is just 104 tackles shy of setting the all-time FBS record.
In 2021, he was named one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, was an All-Sun Belt First Team selection, and was selected to the Pro Football Network All-America Team. Martial was also the only Sun Belt player averaging double-digit tackles per game and was ranked sixth nationally with 10.6 tackles per game. He ended the season 17 tackles shy of the all-time Sun Belt record, but could potentially break it this year.
LB Javon Solomon – Troy
Solomon will be classified as a redshirt sophomore in the 2022 season. Solomon was, statistically, one of the best pass rushers in the country in 2021.
Playing the hybrid defensive position known as a bandit, Solomon earned Pro Football Network All-America honors and an All-Sun Belt First Team selection in 2021. The Tallahassee native led the Sun Belt in tackles for loss (1.42 per game) and ranked 12th nationally in that category last season. Solomon also became one of just 31 players nationally since 2000 to record 17 tackles for loss and 11 sacks through the first 10 games of a season. Additionally, he became just the third FBS player since 2000 to record 12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and one interception in the first six games of the season.
At 6’2 ”and 245 pounds, he fits the mold of the type of edge rusher that NFL scouts seem to love.
RB Nate Noel – Appalachian State
First of all, it’s important to note that Noel is a product of the NFL factory that is Miami Northwestern High School. In the first two college seasons, Noel has accumulated 1,636 rushing yards on 281 carries, which comes to nearly six yards per carry.
In 2021, he was an All-Sun Belt first team selection after leading the league with 1,126 yards in 2021. Even in a system where he’ll inevitably split some of the carries with the also-fantastic Cameroon Peoples, Noel seems poised for yet another strong year. Even at only 5’10 ”and 190 pounds, Noel has next level vision and acceleration. Watching him run off-tackle, in particular, is spectacular.
WR Corey Gammage – Marshall
Gammage is a huge target at 6’4 ”and 220 pounds. Gammage caught at least five passes in all but three games in 2021, proving how much Grant Wells relied on him. With Wells now at Virginia Tech and Henry Colombi looking set to take the reins at quarterback, he could become an even bigger threat, particularly downfield.
If Marshall can do what they’ve done the past few years in getting defenses to respect their run game, that will open up Gammage for more explosive plays. Gammage should see his first 1,000 yard season in college this season with his touchdown numbers also seeing a spike. 2022 will be Gammage’s redshirt junior season.
OL Willie Lampkin – Coastal Carolina
Lampkin is one of those interior line prospects that has quite a bit going for him, on paper. Listed at 6’1 ”and 285 pounds, it’s likely that some scouts would want to see him gain a few more pounds. What he does have though is fantastic athleticism and the kind of versatility that NFL and CFL teams love. Lampkin played both ways in high school, won a 7A Florida State title as a junior, and was a state champion wrestler as a senior with a perfect 47-0 record his senior year.
In 2021, Lampkin Earned a spot on the All-Sun Belt second team. He was also named to the 2021 Phil Steele Sun Belt Conference All-Conference second team, Pro Football Focus (PFF) College Football All-Sun Belt third-team, and the Pro Football Network (PFN) All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention selection.
Other Names to Watch For:
Cameroon Peoples (RB, Appalachian State), Henry Colombi (QB, Marshall), D’Jordan Strong (DB, Coastal Carolina), Rasheen Ali (RB, Marshall), Kobay White (WR, James Madison), Frank Gore Jr. (RB, Southern Miss)