2015 NFL draft Risers/Sliders: WVU's Kevin White bouncing back in big way
By the time West Virginia receiver Kevin White caught Clint Trickett's pass over the middle, he was already gone.
White's 44-yard touchdown grab Saturday, which put his Mountaineers up on Maryland by 18 (they eventually won late 40-37), defined the term "explosive play." Trickett dumped a little screen pass to White, who caught it, turned upfield and flat-out ran past the flat-footed Maryland defense. It was a well-blocked, well-executed play that White turned into six.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver now has 32 catches for 460 yards in three games, just three receptions and 47 yards shy of his totals from 2013, his first year with West Virginia. A Heisman Trophy run might be far too much to ask, but White absolutely has firmed up his status as a 2015 draft prospect.
There is no doubt he has raised his game since last season, one he dubbed a colossal letdown in a recent conversation with ESPN.com:
"Kind of terrible," White said. "I didn’t make the big plays I should have made, I was inconsistent, kind of lackadaisical. Last year was a disaster."
White had a shot at another TD Saturday, but he was unable to secure the leaping grab. How often White finds the end zone between now and the end of the season will be worth tracking; he has just five TDs as a Mountaineer.
Everything else -- size, speed, etc. -- point to a bright NFL future.
More on Week 3 of the college football season:
• Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada: In what is shaping up as a weak senior QB class, Fajardo may have separated himself Saturday, despite a 35-28 loss to Arizona. The Wolf Pack QB tossed 321 yards and three TDs on 29-of-39 passing, one week after helping Nevada knock off Washington State (he rushed for 110 yards in that game).
The comparisons to Colin Kaepernick, whom Fajardo took over for as Nevada's QB in 2012, will be natural come draft time. Fajardo is not quite the physical specimen that Kaepernick is -- he's listed as two inches shorter than Kaepernick, at 6-foot-2, with average downfield arm strength. He might be better as a passer, however, showing a knack for getting through his progressions and not making many mistakes.
• Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington: No. 36 on our initial 2015 Big Board last month, Thompson has done nothing to discredit that standing. Thompson scored twice Saturday in a rout of Illinois, first on a 36-yard interception return and later on a 52-yard fumble recovery. He also rushed three times for 16 yards when Washington had the ball, continuing his work as a two-way player.
As mentioned on the Big Board, Thompson's size (6-2, 225) leaves him as a bit of a linebacker/safety tweener for the next level. He's too prolific a playmaker for many teams to pass on, though.
• E.J. Bibbs, TE, Iowa State: Statistically, Bibbs' game versus Iowa won't jump off the page -- three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. But that TD catch was a gem. Bibbs broke wide open off the snap on 4th-and-goal at the 1, only to be badly underthrown by QB Sam Richardson. He somehow managed to stop in his tracks and dive back toward the line, then extended to make a spectacular catch. Count it as a reminder that despite his limited usage as a pass-catcher, the 6-3, 252-pound Bibbs has an NFL future as a complementary weapon.
• Terry Williams, DT, East Carolina: SI's Andy Staples tabbed Williams as his "Big Ugly of the Week", and the honor was very much deserved. A 350-pound space-eater in the middle of East Carolina's defensive front, Williams was Vince Wilfork-like in his domination against Virginia Tech.
En route to five tackles and a half-sack, Williams forced the Hokies to account for him with multiple linemen ... and when they didn't, Williams pushed into the backfield on a regular basis.
Williams has twice been suspended indefinitely by the Pirates -- in 2012, for a marijuana-related arrest; in 2013, for an unspecified violation of team policy. He's probably a fringe draft prospect, but Williams might be on a few more radars after his stellar showing Saturday.
• Adrian Amos, S, Penn State: Another Nittany Lion, junior cornerback Trevor Williams, was named Big Ten Player of the Week thanks to his two-INT showing in Penn State's comeback win at Rutgers. From a 2015 draft perspective, it's Amos who left Saturday trending upward.
Now a four-year starter with experience at corner and safety, Amos intercepted a pass of his own and also delivered a knifing tackle for loss as part of the victory. While there may not be a Round 1 or 2 selection in Amos' future, his versatility alone could land him in the mid-rounds.
• Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina: Hardy's team scored a stunning victory over Virginia Tech, so he hardly will be disappointed with his four-catch, 45-yard effort. Still, matched up against what is an extremely talented Hokies secondary -- even with former standout Kyle Fuller now picking off passes for the Bears -- Hardy struggled to get open. Hardy also had a couple of passes slip through his hands, one key reason why he did not have a single reception in the second half.
The talented 6-1 receiver still has plenty of positive tape to show NFL scouts. He simply missed a chance to add some more on Saturday.
• The USC offensive line: The Trojans boast a very young O-line, particularly with 2015 draft hopeful Aundrey Walker still out of the lineup following offseason ankle surgery. If there is any specific upcoming prospect who took a hit in Saturday's loss to Boston College, junior center Max Tuerk probably is the guy. He was flagged for a holding penalty and absolutely scorched on a sack.
All in all, USC's flop might not dock its players too much when they head to the NFL. The complete lack of effectiveness against what was thought to be an overmatched Boston College squad still warranted some mention here.
• Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan: Former Michigan and NFL quarterback Brian Griese had this to say about Gardner on the SVP and Russillo Show, prior to the Wolverines' 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio):
"The problem is, Devin Gardner doesn't have a whole lot of time left. It doesn't seem to be clicking, and the telltale sign of a quarterback who is swimming is holding the ball too long."
There was little improvement in that regard versus the RedHawks. Gardner finished 13-of-20 for 184 yards and two touchdowns, but he mostly appeared unsure of himself in the pocket, on multiple occasions letting plays die as he lingered in the pocket. Once again, Garnder fired a brutal INT as well. His top receiver, Devin Funchess, was out of the lineup with an injury, so Gardner has some excuse for a second straight lackluster game. Not much of one, though, and his NFL draft prospects are drying up rapidly.