A popular series from last draft cycle is returning yet again at Stampede Blue. Last off-season, I interviewed over 40 prospects that could eventually be fits for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, we were able to find out a lot about two Colts who went on to eventually be drafted by the team in Marvell Tell II and Khari Willis. This year I hope to interview even more prospects so you all can get an inside look at these player’s accomplishments and mindsets going into this next draft.
Our next prospect is linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State. ADG is one of the better linebacker prospects in this class and has a chance to rise at the Senior Bowl next week. We had a great talk about his size being similar to other successful players such as Darius Leonard, how he is as a coverage backer, and why he’s a player to watch at the Senior Bowl.
6’2” 215 pounds
Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year (2019)
First Team All-Sun Belt (2019)
Second Team All-Sun Belt (2018)
All-American Fourth Team Selection by Phil Steele (2019)
101 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 8 pass deflections, 1 interception, and 1 field goal block.
Fit with the Colts:
The Colts absolutely don’t need yet another linebacker in this upcoming draft class. In Chris Ballard’s three years as a GM, he has drafted all six of the current linebackers on the roster. That being said, will he be able to resist a player that checks every one of his boxes at the position. ADG is a long, physical, and fast linebacker who can make plays in coverage as well. He is extremely similar to Darius Leonard coming out who Ballard obviously loved back in the 2018 NFL Draft. While he wouldn’t have an immediate fit if the Colts took him, he could be a potential WILL backer in the eventual event that Anthony Walker leaves in free agency and Leonard moves to the MIKE position. It may be unlikely but I’d never count out Ballard taking a linebacker who checks all his boxes.
What others are saying about him:
Akeem Davis-Gaither - #24 - easily one of my favorite guys to watch in the draft class. Athletic, rangy coverage LB that plays a lot stronger than he'll weigh at the point of contact.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) January 13, 2020
210, 215, 220lbs It doesn't matter; keep outside shoulder clean & violent hands to disengage pic.twitter.com/JmgZ4g9CRn
Akeem Davis-Gaither is a LB.— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 12, 2020
You LOVE to see a pass breakup like this on film. pic.twitter.com/EaDry6XD9L
If the Raiders aren’t going to take Moses/Simmons, early in the Draft, they should go after App St LB Akeem Davis-Gaither. He played well against SEC comp last night in coverage, and showed he could get to the QB. pic.twitter.com/G8jp1pVFsC— Maliik (@Obee1ne) November 10, 2019
ZH: How did you end up at App State out of high school?
ADG: So the recruiting process for me started off at Boston College. They were my first offer after my Junior season. After that, a bunch of schools started rolling in. My first offer though from a Division one program in North Carolina was Appalachian State so they really reached out to me early. They were only two hours away from home so it was the first time that me and my dad were able to go on a visit together so we both went down there and we were just blown away by the atmosphere and the coaches and just the place in general. He felt like and I felt like it was the best move for me. I was doing research on the other schools and their futures but I ultimately decided on App State.
ZH: You were a reserve player up until your Junior season in 2018. How different is preparation going into a season where you are a reserve compared to when you are the expected starter?
ADG: Since my Freshman year, there was really only two guys in there at my position (me and the guy who started and I was playing some safety too). So I always knew that I was one play away from being on the field or one injury away from it being my time so I was always preparing myself to be ready to play whenever my name was called. I never really switched up my training. My redshirt Sophomore year is really when I started to establish myself and started to see the improvement that I wanted to see in myself. That was the year that I started a few times and was even voted Special Teams Player of the Year by the coaches. I was coming off of a good end of the year as a Sophomore so that really paved the way for me as a Junior. I really trained before that year because I knew that next year was going to be my time unless I screwed it up (laughs).
ZH: Looking back now, what area of your game do you think you’ve grown the most in over your five years of college?
ADG: Just my mindset and my maturity. Being able to know what to do and not to do on and off the field. Also changing how I am in the film room, my training, what I eat, and stuff like that as well. Definitely would say my mindset has changed.
Zh: I saw you weighed in at 215 last year. Traditionally, that is a bit small for a linebacker. Do you think that the success of guys like Darius Leonard and other smaller linebackers in recent years is going to help you throughout this draft process?
ADG: I think that those players and myself are just showing that you don’t have to be a huge linebacker to play in the NFL and play against that competition. It does kind of play in my favor to be undersized like those guys as they are guys who have paved the way before myself. They are showing the coaches and scouts that guys their size, and guys my size, can play in the NFL and can compete with the best.
ZH: Looking at your film, you are clearly comfortable in overhang and in space. How comfortable though are you in between the tackles?
ADG: That’s what I played in high school, I played inside linebacker. I did it a little at App, sometimes I’d have to get inside the box, so I’m very comfortable there. I’m always up to the challenge of learning more about the position even though I’m used to the overhang. Like you mentioned before though, I like to come downhill so I like being around the box and making plays.
ZH: In run defense, when do you know when to stack/shed vs evade blocks by offensive lineman?
ADG: Really it’s just how confident you are in your playing ability and how confident you are in your teammates and knowing that the guy beside you is going to do his job and him knowing that you are doing your job. So the first step is do your job then play off what the quarterback or running back is doing. Being able to know if you need to hold your block or get rid of your block and make a play.
ZH: How comfortable are you in coverage? Whether it is zone defense or carrying a tight end in man, how comfortable are you in your coverage ability?
ADG: I think that is a huge part of my game that I improved on this season alone. I got a lot better with my eyes and being able to recognize where the ball is going and being able to jump underneath that coverage and being able to read the eyes of the QB and getting in and out of my cuts. I improved a lot in being able to read whether it’s a run or pass and being able to get that instant reaction and getting into my drop so yeah I feel really comfortable in coverage.
ZH: Who in the NFL would you compare yourself to/who do you model your game after?
ADG: I don’t really like comparing myself because I want to create my own type of game and own style but a guy I followed throughout the season was Darius Leonard. I watched his college tape and seeing how fast he played and how he was always all over the field, I tried to model myself after that this year. He’s just relentless on the field and non stop and I definitely wanted to be that as well.
ZH: You will be down at the Senior Bowl next week. How excited are you for the opportunity and what can we expect from you?
ADG: I don’t want to get too overly excited but I definitely am ready to get down there and embrace the opportunity to show scouts that I can play on that stage and play with those guys. Just gonna play hard, play fast, and take those opportunities one by one.
ZH: What is my team getting if they draft Akeem Davis-Gaither in the 2020 NFL Draft?
ADG: They are getting a leader in the locker room and a guy who is going to give his all every day in practice, in the film room, off the field, and on the field. A team player first and a guy who will play his heart out each and every down.