Western Kentucky junior free safety Jonathan Dowling, a two-time first-team All-Sun Belt selection, has announced via Twitter that he will enter the NFL draft, and he should prove to be an intriguing prospect.
Dowling (6-foot-3, 198 pounds) was a two-year starter for the Hilltoppers after transferring from Florida. He had three interceptions, seven pass breakups and 67 tackles this season; he had 68 tackles, six picks and seven pass breakups in 2012. Dowling is a big hitter who forced six fumbles this season and two last season. The six forced fumbles this season tied for the national lead with UCLA senior outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
Dowling is an excellent athlete and should test extremely well during the pre-draft process. He has gained 20 pounds since high school, and should be able to put on 10 or more pounds without losing his speed (he has been clocked as fast as 4.42 seconds in the 40). Dowling has good coverage skills, plays the ball well in the air and also has been a solid contributor on special teams. There is some baggage, though.
Dowling signed with Florida in 2010 and was a consensus top-40 prospect nationally from Bradenton, Fla.; he was part of a highly hyped Gators recruiting class that also included Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, Dominique Easley, Jaylen Watkins and Ronald Powell. But then-coach Urban Meyer kicked Dowling off the team in November 2010 for a violation of team rules, and Dowling moved on to Western Kentucky; Western's coach at the time, Willie Taggart, also is from Bradenton and knew Dowling well. Dowling told reporters that "I'm not an angel" and admitted to skipping practices at Florida, according to Rivals.com.
He sat out the 2011 season after transferring and has played extremely well the past two seasons. While the competition in the Sun Belt isn't the greatest, in four games the past two seasons against SEC foes, Dowling had three interceptions, three pass breakups, 23 tackles and a forced fumble.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.