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Sun Belt Players Prepare for NFL Combine

By Kenzie Stanford
SouthernPigskin.com
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Five players from the Sun Belt will participate in the 2015 NFL Combine.

Signing Day is finally in the rearview mirror.

Now next up on the list is the 2015 NFL Combine.

The bigger stories from the NFL Combine are usually coming from names that have reigned from bigger conferences in college football. But as we saw in 2014, prospects from smaller conferences, such as Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon, rose to the occasion. So this year, the Sun Belt sends five new names to Indianapolis, where they will have the chance to impress.

Brandon Bridge (QB, South Alabama), Wes Saxton (TE, South Alabama), Craig Mager (DB, Texas State), Will Johnson (K/P, Texas State), and Justin Manton (K/P, ULM) will be the names representing the Sun Belt Conference in the 2015 NFL Combine.

Let’s see what these underdogs bring to the table and what they will be showing the scouts starting Febrary 17th in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Brandon Bridge

Bridge, the former quarterback at South Alabama, originally started his football career in Canada. He got his shot in the spotlight in 2013 at the Manning Academy, where he competed with some of the most elite names in college football.

During his senior season, he tallied up 17 total touchdowns, 1,648 passing yards, six interceptions, and a 51.9 percent completion percentage in 10 appearances. His height (6’4”), speed and passing skills are what he showcased in his final game at South Alabama against Navy. He finished the game with four touchdowns, 172 passing yards and with a 67.9 percent completion percentage.

Per NFLDraftScout.com, “He’s as raw as he is talented. The ball shoots off his hand and he has some traits that you cannot teach. I’m just not sure how naturally the game comes to him. How much better can he get? What is his football ceiling? I’m not sure. But he could end up being a bargain for a team that brings him along at his pace.”

But that’s the objective of the Combine, right? Expect Bridge to come to Indianapolis with a point to prove and looking to show these scouts his undeveloped, raw potential.


 

Wes Saxton

Saxton, another name coming from South Alabama, started his career in 2011 at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. After his first season, he decided to forego some looks by the SEC and make his transition to the Jaguar’s program as a starting tight end.

Both Bridge and Saxton are the first Jaguars to make an appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Saxton finished his junior season totaling 20 receptions for 155 receiving yards. He led South Alabama with 50 receptions this past season.

“That South Alabama program has some players and the tight end is definitely one of them. He’s a mismatch nightmare and, yes, I think he needs to mature on the field in some areas, but I could easily make the argument he has the most upside of any senior at his position this year,” states an AFC East Scout per CBS Sports.

Craig Mager

Texas State sends Mager to the Combine as a four-year starter at defensive back. He ended his senior season with a total of 63 tackles (43 solo), two quarterback sacks and six tackles for loss. He earned a school record for Texas State with 39 career pass breakups.

Mager’s ability to be quick off the snap is a strength that he will bring to Indianapolis, along with his desire to deliver the big hit. His consistency at Texas State and throughout his football career will serve him well at the NFL Combine and might just give him a fighting chance for a starting role on a team.

Per an NFC director of player personnel, “I wanted to make [Mager] a safety because of how physical he is, but after seeing him in person, he may not be big enough. He’s not as fast as you want, but he’s a player and he’s really, really tough.”


 

Will Johnson

Johnson also comes to Indianapolis from Texas State as a punter/kicker. He ranked 20th nationally with an average of 43.8 yards on 65 punts as a senior. He recorded a career-best punt against Illinois of 70 yards and then followed that statistic with a 66-yarder against Arkansas State.

Justin Manton

Another kicker from the Sun Belt is heading to the Combine this year, but Manton is coming from UL-Monroe. He was asked to attend after he made the All-Sun Belt first team in 2014 as a kicker and then also made the second team as a punter. For field goals, Manton went 20-24 and ended his season sitting at first place in field goal statistics with an accuracy of 83.3%. Not too shabby at all.

Kenzie Stanford - Kenzie Stanford is a Georgia Southern student and Atlanta native who spent her summer as an intern at Turner Sports and spent her last semester as the Sports Director for WVGS 91.9 “The Buzz.” She was apart of the women’s soccer team at Georgia Southern, but her passion for sports goes far beyond that. Per her graduation in May, she is planning to keep the dream alive and work in the sports industry. Watch for Kenzie’s coverage of the Sun Belt Conference and Georgia Southern University here at Southern Pigskin.