The Southern Conference, not traditionally known as an NFL pipeline, produced more draft picks than any other FCS conference in 2013. In its last year as a member of the SoCon, the Elon Phoenix isn’t exactly competing with Alabama or South Carolina, but they certainly have their fair share of NFL talent to go up against. Here are some of the players that you will be rooting against on Saturdays, but just might be cheering for on Sundays.
Height: 6 ft. 5 in. Weight: 240 lbs.
2012 Statistics: 81 receptions, 1196 yards, 8 touchdowns
Price, a redshirt sophomore this season, provides a terrifying size/speed combination that reminds me of NFL superstar Calvin Johnson. In his first full season, Price dominated the majority of games in which he played, but uncharacteristically had a mere three receptions for 37 yards against Elon. He is phenomenal at blazing past defensive backs and getting open deep, yet even when covered, Price can high-point the ball in the air, using his height to his advantage. He can take slant passes to the end zone as well, with his ability to avoid defenders one-on-one.
So Price has all of the physical tools an NFL scout is looking for, but he played just two years of football in high school and has one full season at Appalachian State under his belt. He is still in the very early stages of development as a football player, and staying an extra year or two with the Mountaineers to improve his route-running would do wonders for his draft stock. If he does decide to move on after this year, I predict he will be the first FCS player selected in the draft. Players with that combination of size and speed only come around every so often, and even if they aren’t a finished product, they are still considered a valuable commodity. Case in point: Cordarrelle Patterson, a first-round selection by the Minnesota Vikings, only played one season of Division I football.
Davis Tull – Defensive End – Chattanooga
Height: 6 ft. 5 in. Weight: 240 lbs.
2012 Statistics: 56 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Last season’s Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Tull lines up on the left side of the Mocs 4-3 defense, and he wreaks havoc in the opponent’s backfield. Tull has great football experience and instincts, which allows him to sniff out a play as it is developing, leading to tackles, sacks and forced fumbles. Even when the ball-carrier gets to the second level, Tull is good enough athletically to catch them from behind. What will make him especially appealing to NFL teams is his ability to identify the read option and to contain it properly. Tull shines when it comes to the technicalities of his position, using his hands and proper leverage in order to get by offensive tackles.
The Knoxville, Tenn. product must gain more weight if he wants to make an impact at the next level. Two hundred forty pounds is acceptable for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but Tull fits best on the defensive line, where technique is valued more than pure speed. If his production stays at its current level, Tull should at least stick on a roster as a special-teamer and a rotational pass rusher. In the meantime, he’ll just have to chase after more helpless quarterbacks.
Fabian Truss – Running back – Samford
Height: 5 ft. 9 in. Weight: 190 lbs.
2012 Statistics: 1092 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 11 touchdowns, 35 receptions, 291 yards receiving
Truss caused more damage against Elon last year than any other player on this list, amassing a career-high 219 yards in a 26-15 victory. The best way to describe Truss’ running style is cerebral: He isn’t the most physically imposing player, but he shows great patience to find an opening in the defense and to make the most of it. His all-American status as a kick returner proves he has plenty of speed as well.
The senior running back could very well make it in the NFL exclusively on special teams, but Truss would be best used as a third-down back, similar to Darren Sproles of the New Orleans Saints. That means Truss would be a change-of-pace runner who can hurt defenses not only in the running game, but in the passing game as well. The NFL has become an aerial circus, and if Truss can become a reliable safety valve for an Aaron Rodgers or a Matt Ryan, he could turn out to be something special.
Alvin Scioneaux – Outside Linebacker – Wofford
Height: 6 ft. 2 in. Weight: 225 lbs.
2012 Statistics: 70 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Scioneaux can do a little bit of everything on defense, as shown in his standout performance against South Carolina last year, where he had a sack, a forced fumble and an interception. However, his greatest strength is his pass rushing. Scioneaux sacked Tajh Boyd, one of college football’s greatest escape artists, twice in their 2011 meeting. The Garyville, La. native excels at slipping past blockers and finishing plays; a quarterback is never safe as long as Scioneaux is on the field.
Scioneaux’s versatility might also be his downfall. He spent the majority of his snaps rushing the passer, but his size suggests he is best suited as a 4-3 weakside linebacker in the NFL, which focuses more on pass coverage. This means Scioneaux will probably spend some time in his professional career as a pass-rushing specialist, unless if the Terriers decide to place him in coverage more often. That probably won’t be the case due to the success he’s had in his current role.
Dominique Swope – Running back – Georgia Southern
Height: 5 ft. 11 in. Weight: 206 lbs.
2012 Statistics: 1246 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns
Swope is a key contributor in Georgia Southern’s option attack, but his numbers would be even better if Jerick McKinnon wasn’t the primary rusher. He is best known for his 82-yard touchdown against Alabama, the NFL’s minor league team, which proved he has the speed to outrun NFL-caliber defenders. Swope could be an excellent battering ram on first and second downs, using his strength and vision to make the offense go. If he gains enough weight, Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers would be a logical comparison.
Even if Swope can’t cut it as a running back, he has plenty of experience as a fullback. The Georgia Southern Eagles averaged a ridiculous 399.4 yards per game on the ground last season, and Swope was a major part of that thanks to his running and blocking ability. If Swope improves as a receiver, he could skyrocket up NFL draft boards, assuming he stays healthy.
Jeremiah Attaochu – Outside Linebacker – Georgia Tech
Height: 6 ft. 3 in. Weight: 240 lbs.
2012 Statistics: 69 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Attaochu doesn’t play in the Southern Conference, but he is the best draft prospect Elon will face all season. For the Phoenix to compete with Georgia Tech, they’re going to have to find a way to stop Attaochu. He reminds me of Barkevious Mingo, another pass rusher with freakish athleticism and an aggressive demeanor. Attaochu does most of his damage running past lead-footed offensive tackles, but his hand usage and motor make him one of the top linebackers eligible for the 2014 draft. The other facets of his game, run defense and pass coverage, aren’t anything special but he can hold his own.
If Attaochu wants to be a high draft selection, he must show more discipline on the field. Georgia Tech suspended him for a half after punching Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas in their 2011 meeting. Another slip-up like that, and Attaochu’s character could be questioned during the draft process. But you can’t teach athleticism, and Attaochu has plenty of that.