NCF Nation: Lester Jean

The Senior Bowl has been announcing the players to be featured in its game over the last several weeks, with plenty more to come. Some of the top non-AQ players in the country will be represented in Mobile, Ala., for the showcase game on Jan. 29.

Here is a partial list:

Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Jerrel Jernigan, WR/AP, Troy

Jeremy Kerley, WR/AP, TCU

Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State

Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii

Titus Young, WR, Boise State

Dalton joins a South roster that already features Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Dalton's draft status is one to watch, in my opinion. He may not be Andrew Luck but he has got the intangibles covered. It's hard to argue against a player who has won a school-record 42 games and definitely has the size at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds to play in the NFL.

Mel Kiper ranks him as the No. 5 senior quarterback going into the draft in his current rankings. Others project him as a fourth- to fifth-round pick.

"I’m just going to go out and show [scouts] how I play, show them that I can play with a lot of these players," Dalton said in a statement announcing his participation. "Hopefully people will see my leadership abilities and all the different intangibles that I can bring to the game."

Kiper has Jernigan listed as his No. 4 senior wide receiver.

Several other top non-AQ players have committed to play in another all-star game, the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando on Jan. 22. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been invited to play in both games. Here is a partial list of the East-West participants:

Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State

Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy

Lester Jean, WR, FAU

Jeron Johnson, S, Boise State

Shiloh Keo, S, Idaho

Brian Lainhart, S, Kent State

Josh McNary, DE, Army

Dontay Moch, DE/LB, Nevada

Justin Taplin-Ross, S, Utah
Here are your non-AQ conference players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. He threw for a career-high 383 yards and five touchdowns, along with the 33-yard Hail Mary to Justin Jones in the end zone as time ran out to give the Pirates a 51-49 win over Tulsa. Davis also scored once on the ground. The five passing touchdowns were the most by an East Carolina quarterback since Jeff Blake threw five against Southern Miss on Nov. 9, 1991.

Defense: Tulane LB Trent Mackey. The transfer from Duke made his first career start for Tulane and made a career and game-high 13 tackles, including two stops for minus-8 yards and also forced a fumble against Southeastern Louisiana.

Special teams: SMU K/P Matt Szymanski, who made a school-record 61-yard field goal at Texas Tech. The 61-yarder is the second-longest in C-USA history. He also had a 49.3-yard punt average, the second-highest single-game average of his career.

MAC, East Division

Offense: Kent State QB Spencer Keith. He threw a career-high three touchdown passes and went 24-for-35 for 275 yards in a 41-10 win over Murray State.

Defense: Bowling Green DB Keith Morgan. The junior finished second on the team with 11 tackles and added an interception in the Falcons' 30-27 loss at Troy.

Special teams: Temple K Brandon McManus. The sophomore made a career-high four field goals in a 31-24 win over Villanova, including the game-winning 43-yarder with 3 seconds remaining. He also added a career-long 53-yard field goal, the second-longest field goal in school history.

West Division

Offense: Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest. Ran for a career-best 142 yards on 26 rushes and scored two touchdowns.

Defense: Central Michigan LB Nick Bellore. Had a team-high 11 tackles and one tackle for loss in a 33-0 win over Hampton.

Special teams: Western Michigan P Ben Armer. Averaged 40.9 yards a punt at Michigan State, including a career-matching long 62-yard punt. He also had two punts inside the 20, including one that hit at the 1-yard line and was downed at the 2.

Mountain West

Offense: Utah WR DeVonte Christopher. Caught eight passes for 155 yards and a touchdown to lead Utah to a 27-24 overtime victory over No. 15 Pittsburgh. Christopher had never caught a pass at Utah until Thursday’s game.

Defense: Utah SS Brian Blechen. The true freshman's interception of Tino Sunseri on the first play of overtime helped Utah beat Pittsburgh.

Special teams: BYU P/K Riley Stephenson. Three of his punts landed inside the 15-yard line against Washington. Three of his five kickoffs landed inside the 20.

Sun Belt

Offense: FAU WR Lester Jean. Had two touchdown catches, including a one-handed reception over the top of his head that went 77 yards against UAB.

Defense: Arkansas State DB M.D. Jennings. Had a team-high 11 tackles, career-high 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, while also forcing one fumble and recovering another against Auburn.

Special teams: FAU DL Michael Lockley. Blocked UAB's 28-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to give FAU a 32-31 win.

Note: The WAC will announce its players of the week Tuesday, following the Boise State-Virginia Tech game on Monday night.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • Three-time All-Sun Belt rusher Reggie Arnold is gone and finding his replacement will be their top priority. Derek Lawson, who was third on the team in rushing with 244 yards and two touchdowns, returns and he’ll be the incumbent through spring. But he’ll face competition from Sir Gregory Thornton and Frankie Jackson in the fall.
  • Ryan Aplin, who started three of the final four games last season, should be the leading quarterback this spring. Redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield, however, will also challenge him for the spot. Butterfield was in the mix last fall camp before his season ended with a knee injury.
  • Arkansas State is currently without an offensive coordinator after Clay Helton, who came over from Memphis last month, left for USC last week. The Red Wolves still have a month before spring football starts, but trying to fill that void this late is going to make any transition to a new offense tough.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Spring practice starts: March 31
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • The Owls lost seven starters from the offense, including four from the offensive line. The only player returning is center Ryan Wischnefski. Several players will be fighting for those spots, including Troy Niblack, Samuel McRoy, Jared Pizzuti and Max Karrick. The 2009 FAU offensive line was the best in the program’s short history. It helped FAU become the No. 2 passing offense in the Sun Belt.
  • FAU returns senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp, who started the second half of the season after Rusty Smith was injured. But six of the team’s top seven receivers are gone, including both tight ends Jason Harmon and Jamari Grant. Senior Lester Jean is the lone returning receiver. He had 501 yards and four touchdowns last season. The good thing is that FAU quarterbacks like to spread the ball around, so developing a new rapport with some receivers this spring shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • The team is counting on new defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh and secondary coach Dick Hopkins to make the defense competitive. The Owls had one of the worst defenses in the country and one of the worst in program history. There will be a lot of competition in the secondary, especially since three walk-ons filled those starting roles.
Florida International Golden Panthers
Spring practice starts: March 3
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
  • Senior Wayne Younger and junior transfer Wesley Carroll, who came from Mississippi State where he was an all-freshman selection in 2008, will compete for the starting quarterback job after Paul McCall graduated. Younger played in spot time last year and threw four interceptions and no touchdowns.
  • Darriet Perry should be the leader heading into the running back competition, but Perry struggled at times last year, mostly because of injuries. Kendall Berry, who played out of the Wildcat last year, and Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden also will compete for the starting role.
  • New offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield will be happy to see star receiver T.Y. Hilton back after he struggled with knee injuries most of last year. Hilton is one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference and having him healthy should give the offense confidence.

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