Post-spring breakout players to watch
May, 13, 2014
By Travis Haney | ESPN.com
USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Dak Prescott and defensive back Jalen Ramsey could be poised for breakout seasons.We all know by now that running backs have evolved into a low-value position on NFL draft boards, but that doesn’t change the fact that it could easily be the strongest spot in college football this fall. That could project to at least one or two first-rounders in the 2015 draft pool.
In addition to known studs such as Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, a new crop of running backs has breakout potential in 2014.
Here are 15 post-spring names to remember -- several of them running backs -- in addition to an update on the 10 I offered in January. It’s all a prelude to our master list of breakout candidates, due out in early August as preseason camps begin.
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
With five total TDs in the team’s bowl win, Prescott emerged late last season as a pseudo-breakout performer.
Those in the league, however, perceive that he could become more of a national name this fall. He’s why some, including me, like Mississippi State as an SEC sleeper this fall.
“He’s like a lot of the other athletic quarterbacks, [such as] Braxton [Miller] or Johnny [Manziel],” one SEC assistant told me. “He just needs to come along as a passer.”
Prescott’s 58 percent completion rate needs to move toward 65-70 for a sizable-but-reasonable jump. He also needs to show late-game moxie: Three of Prescott’s seven picks came in the fourth quarter, the only quarter in which his QB rating dipped below 100.
2. KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame
Russell has been solid so far in his career, but those close to the program believe he will take off as a junior in new coordinator Brian VanGorder’s system.