By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
To say sports fans have undergone extreme withdrawal symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic would be a major understatement. However, later this month, they may get their first reprieve.
The NFL (as of press time) have stated they will still put on their annual College Draft extravaganza on April 23-25. Originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, all draft activities will be held on-line while being broadcast by the NFL Network, ABC, and ESPN Networks.
Today, we continue with our annual look at the best HBCU football players that are eligible for this year’s draft. It gives our readers a look back at some of the outstanding performers of the past season who hope to turn their Saturday dreams into Sunday realities.
Last time, we focused on wideouts and tight ends. Up next, it’s the offensive lineman
Jeremiah Abby, Southern
A four-year starter for the Jaguars, the 6-foot-4, 328 pounder was an All-SWAC selection in 2019, team captain and leader of SU’s offensive line. The Atlanta native was named to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FCS Coaches’ All-America Teams and chosen as the SWAC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year by Phil Steele Magazine. Abby helped lead Southern to the SWAC Championship Game two years in a row.
Frank Ball, Virginia State
A two-time All-CIAA selection, the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder was a four-year starter for the Trojans at right tackle. As a sophomore, the Hampton, Va. native was part of VSU’s CIAA Championship team in 2017 that made the Division II Playoffs.
Donald Boone, Chowan
A three-time All-CIAA selection, the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder is one of the most decorated lineman in the country. The Duluth, Ga. native also garnered an Honorable Mention All-American selection this season. Boone earned an All-Super Region II First Team selection as the Hawks finished with the top ranked offense in the CIAA. In the season finale against Lincoln (Pa.), Boone was part of a unit that churned out 596 total yards (including a school-record 493 on the ground) in a 44-20 victory.
Thomas Burton, Tennessee State
A two-time All-Ohio Valley Selection, the Memphis native split time at center and left guard during the 2019 campaign. The 6-foot-2, 305-pounder player in all 12 games and anchored an offensive line that averaged 400.1 yards per game. The unit finished third in the OVC in total offense and second in passing with 260.7 yards per game. The line also allowed the second least amount of sacks in the conference at 1.75 yards per game.
Jean Cyriaque, Morehouse
An All-SIAC selection in 2019, the Durham, N.C. native helped lead the Maroon Tiger offense to a No. 4 ranking in the conference. Behind the 6-foot-2, 277-pounder, Morehouse rushed for 1,148 yards while throwing for 2,059 and scoring 27 touchdowns. Prior to the 2019 season, he was named to the All-SIAC preseason team as well as the preseason Black College Football Hall of Fame Player of the Year watch-list.
Keanu Gonzales, Shaw
A two-time All-CIAA recipient and native of Cary, N.C., Gonzales anchored the Bears offensive line that tallied a total of 3,601 yards, posting 26.2 points per game and gathering 2,164 passing yardage and 1,437 on the ground. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder was also named to the 2019 Don Hansen Super Region Second Team.
Kevin Hall, Alcorn State
A two-time All-SWAC selection, the Prentice, Miss. native started all 13 games at right tackle. He helped the Braves rank top-15 in the nation in passing efficiency and top-25 in points per game with 33.6. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder blocked for an offense that scored 44 points in the Celebration Bowl, which were the most it’s ever scored in a postseason bowl or playoff game. The Braves scored six touchdowns in the game. In 2018, he blocked for an ASU offense that ranked eighth in the nation in rushing with 291.4 yards per game.
Marcus Pettiford, North Carolina A&T
The MEAC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, the 6-foot-4, 286-pounder was part of an offense that led the conference in scoring, total offense and rushing offense. The Aggies also ranked among the top teams in the country in all three categories. The Durham, N.C. native played 521 snaps, had a year-end grade of 88 percent, missed only five assignments, committed only one penalty (false start) and was credited with 27 knockdown blocks. He is a three-time first-team All-MEAC performer with one of those years coming at right tackle.
Alex Taylor, South Carolina State
The 6-foot-9, 310-pounder was a First Team All-MEAC selection this past season for the Bulldogs, leading them to a share of the 2019 MEAC title with North Carolina A&T. A converted basketball player, the native of Moncks Corner, S.C. was named Offensive Lineman of the Week five times. He anchored an offensive line that averaged 368.2 yards of total offense and 30.1 points per game. He was also invited to the Senior Bowl and the NFL HBCU Combine.
NEXT: Defensive Lineman.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.