by Colin Lindsay
GBN Editor and Publisher

September 24

Every year it seems prospects come from seemingly nowhere to establish themsleves as legitimate prospects for the upcoming draft. And while there is still a ton of sorting out to do before the 2015 draft, the following half dozen players have had the kind of starts that just might fit the bill in one way or another.

QB Dak Prescott, 6-2, 235, 4.65, JR … Prior to the season we heard more than one whisper that anyone looking for an emerging sleeper at the position for the 2015 draft might want to consider Mississippi State junior Dak (short for Dakota) Prescott. If nothing else Prescott is a little bit less of a sleeper after he led the Bulldogs to that stunning upset of LSU last Saturday night right in Baton Rouge. Prescott isn’t all that tall for an NFL QB at barely 6-2, but he has a thick build and quick feet; indeed, he’s a legit dual-threat QB who is averaging close to 100 yards rushing per game this fall and can run out of trouble in the pocket, although he doesn‘t always throw all that well on the run. However, Prescott does have a live arm and decent touch when he sets his feet. Bottom line is that this a kid with a little Cam Newton/Russell Wilson in him with the natural physical tools that an NFL can work with.

QB Taylor Heinicke, 6-0, 215, Old Dominion, 4.65, SR … Has a chance to be the first player every to win the Walter Payton Award for the outstanding player at the FCS level and the Heisman Trophy. And yes to the quizzical NFL fan who doesn’t follow college football all that closely, ODU is now a member of the CUSA conference after moving up to the FBS level last fall. In their final year in the FCS ranks, Heinicke was awarded the Payton Trophy after throwing for over 5,000 yards. In fact, he already has over 10,000 career passing yards along with over 1,000 more on the ground. Of course, Heinicke is the mother of all longshots to win the Heisman Trophy playing for a Sun Belt team, much less Old Dominion, but did put up Heisman type numbers last fall when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 33 scores. Like Prescott above, Heinicke isn’t very tall at barely 6-0, but he is a Drew Brees type who sees the field extremely well, has a quick release and real nice touch; plus he’s another good athlete who can escape trouble and is an accurate passer on the run. The knock on Heinicke is that he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and needs a wind-up to get the ball downfield, but he’s a super productive passer who likely will get some long looks from NFL teams based on the success of guys like Brees and Russell Wilson.

RB Tevin Coleman, 5-10, 205, Indiana, 4.45, JR … Coleman doesn’t get the same recognition as some of this year’s other top runners including Todd Gurley of Georgia, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Mel Gordon of Minnesota, but no back has been more productive in the early going this fall than Coleman who is on pace to rush for over 2,300 yards this fall. And while he put up a lot of those numbers against a couple of cupcakes on the Hoosiers early schedule, Coleman was front and center this past weekend when Indiana restored some pride for the embattled Big Ten when it posted a shock road win at Missouri of the SEC as he ran for 132 yards on just 19 carries despite being hampered by a sore knee. For the year, Coleman is averaging 8.6 yards per carry after averaging 7.3 last season. He’s also a pretty good receiver with 36 career receptions and can contribute as a KO returner. Coleman has a nice combination of size and track speed; has decent vision and instincts and is tough to tackle in the open, although scouts would also like to see him be a little more physical between the tackles.

WR Kevin White, 6-2, 210, West Virginia, 4.50, SR … Perhaps no player has helped his draft status this year than White who was a fair to middling player for two years at the junior college before turning in a fair-to-middling first year at WVU last fall when he had 35 receptions. Indeed, there was nothing to suggest that White was anything more than a fair-to-middling prospect entering the season. That was then, though, as White trails only first-round bound Amari Cooper of Alabama in total receiving yards in college football his fall as he is on pace to finish the year with 120 receptions and almost 1,900 yards. And White has hardly picked his spots as in games against said Alabama and Oklahoma, arguably the two top teams in the country this season, White had 19 catches for over 300 yards and 2 TDs including a spectacular 68-yard TD reception this past weekend against the Sooners. White, a solidly-built 6-2, 210-pounder, has been described as something of a young Anquin Bolden; however, he looks quicker and more athletic than the 49ers’ star and has a really explosive first step; he can also get deep, although he still has to prove he has legit speed and can break tackles in space.       

OLB Caleb Azubike, 6-3, 265, Vanderbilt, 4.75, JR … Its been a rough start for 1-3 Vanderbilt this fall which got its only win to date against football orphans Umass - by three points at home. However, the Commodores may have something of a breakout star in junior DE Caleb Azubike, the latest in a growing list of late comers to the football who have bloomed as edge rushers. Azubike’s family only immigrated to the States when he was entering high school, but he has a unique combination of size, speed and athleticism; he’s also known as a workout warrior who will impress at the combine. Azubike, who did not redshirt at Vanderbilt, was one of the Commodores most effective defensive linemen the past couple of seasons in which he had 4 sacks both years despite never starting.  This year, though, he’s played almost every sack and aleady has 4 sacks in 3 games playing somewhat out-of-position as an undersized 3-4 DE. NFL teams, though suspect that Azubike could be a dynamite Steelers-style 3-4 OLB given his athleticism and relentless work ethic.

OLB Hau’Oil Kikaha, 6-2, 250, Washington, 4.75, SR … Picked up right where he left off in 2013 when he had 13 sacks as he already has 6 sacks through 4 games so far this fall playing as a Buck DE. Like Azubike above though Kikaha projects to a 3-4 OLB at the next level as he lacks the size and strength to hold the point of attack against big offensive linemen. As an edge-rusher, though, Kikaha has a nice burst, instincts, closing speed and overall athleticism. As a former wrestler he’s also got good balance and agility and can plant and change direction; also understands leverage and uses hands effectively to disengage. Big issue for Kikaha, though, is can he stay healthy after missing much of 2011 and all 2012 with torn ACLs.