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2024 NFL Draft: Eight players to watch at HBCU Legacy Bowl

North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA football game against UCLA Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA football game against UCLA Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The third annual edition of the HBCU Legacy Bowl is taking place in New Orleans this week. Before the game kicks off (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NFL Network and NFL+), 2024 NFL Draft prospects from Historically Black Colleges and Universities will showcase their talent during practices.

Players will be divided into two teams: Team Gaither and Team Robinson, named after two of the most successful football coaches in HBCU history (Jake Gaither, who coached Florida A&M from 1945 to 1969, and Eddie Robinson, who coached Grambling State from 1941 to 1997). Howard's Larry Scott and Virginia Union's Alvin Parker will coach Team Gaither, while South Carolina State’s Chennis Berry and Prairie View A&M's Bubba McDowell will lead Team Robinson.

This is an event that I look forward to attending each year, as these players get a chance to compete on a national stage and impress NFL scouts. Here are eight players to watch this year:

Davius Richard, QB, North Carolina Central

A four-year starter for the Eagles, Richard has the tools, talent and production (with his arm and legs) to be an intriguing quarterback prospect. Richard finished his college career with 8,991 pass yards and 73 pass TDs and another 2,026 yards and 44 TDs on the ground -- he's one of the most electric dual-threat talents in the country, in my opinion. A finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy in 2023, Richard was described by NCCU head coach Trei Oliver as "a strong yet humble leader who remains even keeled under pressure." His work ethic and playmaking ability should be on display this week.

Jarveon Howard, RB, Alcorn State

A hard runner with a compact build (5-foot-10, 200 pounds), Howard transferred from Syracuse to Alcorn State and had a strong debut season for his new school, rushing for 1,275 yards and 12 touchdowns and earning first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors in 2022. Though his final numbers dipped in 2023, his per-carry mark remained steady (5.1 yards), and he still ranked third in the SWAC in rushing yards (785), once again nabbing a first-team all-conference nod. He also showed potential as a pass catcher (29 receptions). In his two-plus seasons at Syracuse (he opted out of 2020 season), Howard rushed for 731 yards and 10 TDs, primarily as a short-yardage back.

LaDarius Owens, RB, Texas Southern

Owens was a bright spot on a struggling Tigers offense, as he led all HBCU players and finished with 202 carries for 1,370 rushing yards (sixth in FCS) and 11 rushing TDs. The first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield -- although he wasn't asked to do much of that in college -- and can pick up the blitz.

Matthew Foster, OL, Virginia State

Foster, the 2022 CIAA Lineman of the Year, is one of the top prospects in Division II. The big-bodied lineman (6-7, 315 pounds) has the tools to develop with the right coaching and more time in the weight room.

Tairiq Stewart, OT, North Carolina A&T

The 6-6, 300-pounder is a massive prospect who primarily lined up at right tackle in three seasons at North Carolina A&T. Stewart is a physical run blocker in an Aggies program that consistently excels in the run game. He also played two seasons at ASA Brooklyn (a junior college) before transferring to West Virginia for the 2020 campaign (he did not play in a game with the Mountaineers).

Loobert Denelus, DT, Benedict College

In three seasons with the Division II Tigers, Denelus posted 139 tackles, 48 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries (three returned for scores). That is a sign of talent; I don't care what division you are playing in. The two-time captain and 2023 William V. Campbell Trophy finalist, Denelus was the defensive leader on a team that went 11-1 in back-to-back seasons. His stature (he measures 6-foot and 255 pounds) will always be a concern for scouts, but he has the potential to line up as a 3- or 5-technique in the right system. Denelus has good position flexibility and versatility to go along with a nonstop motor. Back in 2015, when I was working with the Atlanta Falcons and we drafted Grady Jarrett, a lot of scouts saw nothing but the potential limitations tied to his 6-foot, 305-pound frame, but he figured it out with a coach (Dan Quinn) who knew how to use him and accentuate his strengths.

Jeblonski Green Jr., DE, South Carolina State

Green lined up primarily as a 3-technique for the Bulldogs and was disruptive when healthy, playing well against higher-level competition (one INT vs. Georgia Tech). He lacks ideal length but is a solid developmental prospect from a program that has produced great NFL players like Shaquille Leonard and Javon Hargrave.

Brandon Codrington, DB/PK, North Carolina Central

Codrington is a very productive returner, finishing as high as third in NCAA Division I-FCS in punt return yard average (15.0) in his sophomore season in 2021. He has good hands, ball security and quickness.

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