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.
Offensive lineman was the previous focus. Today, it’s all about defensive lineman.
C.J. Anderson, Jackson State
The Hattiesburg, Miss. native was the anchor along the Tigers’ defensive line. He totaled 46 tackles, 25 solo stops and 8 tackles for loss. Anderson also added 3.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss per game. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder also secured the overtime win over Prairie View A&M and blocked the game-tying field goal.
Solomon Bassett, Lincoln (Pa.)
A two-time CIAA selection, Bassett led the Lions defense with six sacks and five blocked kicks in 2019. The five blocked kicks were the most by an NCAA Division II player this season as well as a Lincoln school record. The Fort Worth, Tx. native finished with 41 total tackles (a team-best 12 tackles for loss) totaling 61 yards. During the season, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder earned CIAA special Teams Player of the Week honors and ECAC special Team Player of the month honors. He was also named to the 2019 Don Hanson Super Region Third Team.
Brandon Carswell, Delaware State
In his first season with the Hornets after three years at Savannah State, the 5-foot-11, 250-pounder was tops on the Hornets and third in the MEAC with 1.3 tackles for loss per game (15.5 total). He also ranked ninth in the league with 4.5 sacks and was among the nation’s leaders in blocked kicks during the 2019 season. Previously, the Mt. Vernon, Ga. native was an All-MEAC Third Team selection in 2017 while at Savannah State.
Justin Cates, North Carolina A&T
The Goldsboro, N.C. native ended his career as one of the most decorated defensive lineman in school history. Was a part of an incredible defensive line for four seasons. Injuries shortened what could have been a superb 2017 season. Entered the 2019 season as a preseason first-team All-MEAC selection. Had a superb 2016 season despite playing in a reserve role. Had his freshman season cut short after two games. Good run stopper with the ability to come off the ball and make plays. Has good speed for his position, and he has an impressive 101-inch reach. Can bench press 225 pounds 18 times. Can also bench press 355 pounds and squat 500. Has played in 44 games with 26 starts. Recorded 100 tackles (57 unassisted), 27.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in his career. The 6-foot-2, 257-pounder was a two-time All-MEAC first-team selection.
Craig Evans, Langston
The 6-foot-3, 317-pounder was named the SAC Defensive Player of the Year after he accumulated 29 tackles, 16 solo stops, 11 tackles for loss and 7½ sacks this year. The native of San Prairie, Wisc. had a season-best six tackles against Arizona Christian on Oct. 12 and season-high two sacks vs. Panhandle State on Sept. 21. Evans spearheaded the Langston defense, which topped the conference with 18.5 points allowed per game and 249.7 total yards permitted. Langston took a share of the SAC championship to win the conference for the second year in a row. The Lions ended the season with four wins in a row.
Marques Ford, Bethune-Cookman
An All-MEAC selection in 2019, the Gibsonton, Fla. native was sixth in the MEAC in sacks (5.5). He finished the season with 24 tackles (18 solos) including 9.5 tackles for loss. A year earlier, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder registered 10.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks, both team highs in 11 games. He was also 2nd in the MEAC in sacks and 10th in TFL.
Tyrell Goodwin, South Carolina State
The 6-foot, 285-pounder was an All-MEAC performer in 2019. The Columbia, S.C. native finished with 39 tackles (24 solos) including 15 tackles for losses and 5 sacks. In a 24-10 win over Morgan State on October 19th, Goodwin had a season-high 7 tackles (5 solos) and 3 sacks.
Darius Royster, North Carolina Central
The 2019 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, the native of Chesapeake, Va. topped the conference with 16.0 tackles for a loss, 9.0 sacks and three forced fumbles, and ranked ninth in the league with 75 tackles as the only defensive lineman positioned in the top-20. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Royster’s 9.0 sacks (7 solo/4 assisted) are more than any other Eagle in the past 35 years, and his 75 tackles are the most among NCCU defensive linemen in 25 years.
Jalen Stewart, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
A two-time All-SWAC selection, the Memphis native posted 61 tackles (tied for the team lead) and was tied for ninth in the SWAC with 5.0 sacks and led the league with 16.5 tackles for loss. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder had six games with at least 2.0 tackles for loss, and made at least six tackles in a game six times.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.