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OAYP: Sun Belt Midseason Top Players & Breakout Stars

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Jim Johnson's OAYP advanced metric highlights the special players over its 4.0 mark and the 2019 midseason breakout stars in the Sun Belt.

Now midway through the 2019 regular season, a few names are starting to rise above the rest, in the eyes of my OAYP advanced metric.

We also have some breakout stars that, though we didn’t know much about them before the season, have emerged among the ranks of the elite.

I wanted to highlight both groups of players, so, first, let’s break down the ‘special ones’. These are players with a marginal OAYP score greater than 4.0. Right now, just 15 players in Southern Pigskin’s entire FBS coverage area -- the ACC, SEC, and Sun Belt -- meet that threshold. The Sun Belt has four of them.

Then, we’ll look at the breakout stars: players that didn’t have a preseason projection, either because they’re freshmen or because they didn’t play enough earlier in their career to have a qualifying sample size, but are currently at or above a 2.0 marginal OAYP score. Coincidentally, there are also 15 examples of these players in our coverage area. The Sun Belt also has four of those.

THE SPECIAL ONES

DL Demetrius Taylor, App State
Marginal OAYP: 5.6

I’m not quite sold on Taylor having the second highest OAYP score of any player in our coverage area, regardless of position, thanks to having the single highest individual game score of the year so far, against North Carolina. However, he’s far more than just a one hit wonder. Even without that game, he has five tackles for loss in as many appearances. A modest regression is almost a certainty as the season progresses, but that doesn’t mean he won’t stay in this rarified air.

LB Carlton Martial, Troy
Marginal OAYP: 4.48

Martial is having an All-American caliber season. He broke out as the best linebacker in the Sun Belt last year, as a freshman, and picked up right where he left off in 2019. You can count on one hand how many players have more tackles for loss than he does right now, and one finger how many are averaging more per game. Toss in a couple of hurries, a forced fumble, a pick, and sack, and Martial has arguably been the most productive linebacker in the country so far.

OG Kevin Dotson, Louisiana
Marginal OAYP: 4.42

OT Robert Hunt, Louisiana
Marginal OAYP: 4.18

I’ll talk about these guys in the next section. Scroll down a little and you’ll see why.

Just Missed (marginal OAYP > 3.5): Omar Bayless, Arkansas State

BREAKOUT STARS

Max Mitchell, ULL
Marginal OAYP: 2.46

O'Cyrus Torrence, ULL
Marginal OAYP: 2.25

Shane Vallot, ULL
Marginal OAYP: 2.19

Yep, all five of Louisiana’s starting offensive linemen are in one of these two categories. Obviously, Dotson and Hunt are a notch above, but everybody is doing their part. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ trio of backs are awesome, as well, but those guys aren’t anywhere close to where they are without the big fellas up front. Currently ranked 7th in line yards per carry, 3rd in percentage of 5+ yard carries, and 8th in percentage of stops allowed at or behind the line of scrimmage, Louisiana correspondingly has the top two tackles, top two guards, and top center in the league. Based on the data at hand, there’s really not even an argument otherwise. I would be surprised, not totally stunned, but surprised if they finished the season that way, but for now, it’s unassailable. There aren’t many power five teams that wouldn’t happily trade their own offensive line for this one.

Khalil McClain, Troy
Marginal OAYP: 2.04

After losing their top three receivers from 2018, who would’ve guessed that this Troy passing attack would be its most prolific since 2013. A number of different guys have stepped up to make that happen, and Kaleb Barker deserves his share of the credit, but arguably no one has more so than Khalil McClain. Kaylon Geiger has been much more heavily targeted, and Reggie Todd has been more efficient, but McClain has been a touchdown machine. With five scores on only 18 receptions, he’s finding paydirt on 28% of his catches. Tall, long, and strong, McClain may be the premier red zone threat in the conference.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OAYP’S WEEK 7 SUN BELT ROUNDUP, featuring overall team, offense and defense rankings, week eight picks against the spread, the formula’s ranking of the top five players at every position, and the Team of the Week.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP