Hau'oli Kikaha, Shane Ray among CFB's emerging pass rushers

Clemson's Vic Beasley, Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun, Nebraska's Randy Gregory and USC's Leonard Williams are well-established as the most talented pass rushers in college football.

However, no one from that group ranks in the FBS' top five for sacks per game. Beasley is tied for seventh (1.00), and Gregory (.79) and Calhoun (.75) are ranked 24th and tied for 25th, respectively. Williams is lower on the list at .56.

We all know production alone doesn't tell the story of a player's effectiveness. Those four players are tremendous talents and each has played well this season. That said, there are pass rushers emerging this season and posting huge numbers at the same time.

The players atop the leader board in sacks per game heading into Week 10 of the college football season are not big names, but they are intriguing talents that will draw a close look from NFL evaluators. If they continue to produce, scouts will be checking the tape to see if their numbers are a true indication of their pro potential.

With that in mind, here's a look at each of the top five players in sacks per game along with some thoughts on their next-level potential. They're listed in order of where they rank in sacks per game.

Washington OLB Hau'oli Kikaha (1.81 sacks per game; 14.5 total)

Kikaha, a fifth-year senior, has had to battle back from two ACL tears during his college career. Last season was his first healthy campaign since he was a freshman, and he performed well, recording 13 sacks. He's taking it to another level this season, though, and it's not surprising to see him emerging even further now two years removed from surgery. Kikaha is in his first season as a stand-up linebacker and has made a smooth adjustment from playing with his hand in the dirt full-time. He's a thick, strong, athletic player who's physically imposing at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds. He's been helped by DT Danny Shelton, who has emerged as the top interior pass rusher in the nation (7.5 sacks).

Kikaha a relentless pass rusher, but he's not just an effort player. Kikaha is very strong with his hands, which allows him to win battles. The biggest hurdle for him at the next level could be medical evaluations given his history of knee injuries. He's shown me a lot this season as far as his athletic ability, though.

Utah DE Nate Orchard (1.57 sacks per game; 11 total)

Orchard has exceeded his total career production entering the year in half a season -- he entered the year with 6.5 career sacks and already has 11 in 2014. That kind of ascent production-wise reminds me of Michael Sam, who did the same as a senior with Missouri last season on his way to becoming SEC co-defensive player of the year. Orchard was quiet for most of Saturday's game vs. USC, but he never quit and had a game-clinching sack late in the Utes' win.

He projects as an outside linebacker at the next level, and while there's not a lot of buzz about him within scouting circles at the moment, if he keeps producing, it could send him up draft boards.

Arizona ILB Scooby Wright (1.29 sacks per game; nine total)

Wright is just a true sophomore, so he won't be eligible to declare for next year's draft. He's going to be fun to watch and continue to evaluate, though. He was lightly recruited but became a starter as a freshman and never looked back. He moved from outside to inside linebacker in the offseason and rushes from the edge as well as up the middle. Wright might not be the biggest or fastest guy, but he has a high football IQ and knows how to get to the ball, as he showed again last week, recording three strip-sacks vs. Washington State.

Wright is a better athlete than he gets credit for and he maximizes his ability. I think he'll have a chance to play at the next level.

Missouri DE Shane Ray (1.25 sacks per game; 10 total)

Ray is a freakish athlete and there was a report earlier this month that he's gone from a second-day prospect (Rounds 2-3) to possibly being a top-10 pick. Clearly, he's out of the shadow of Kony Ealy and Michael Sam and is flourishing playing opposite Markus Golden (four sacks), a promising prospect himself. Ray, a fourth-year junior, will have a decision to make about his future after the season.

Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (1.14 sacks per game; eight total)

The Buckeyes have had their issues on defense this season, but Urban Meyer need not worry about Bosa. The conversation of the Big Ten's top defensive ends usually starts with Shilique Calhoun and Randy Gregory, but Bosa ought to be in the conversation, too. He's a big, agile true sophomore and quickly established himself as a disruptive force as a freshman last season.

Bosa has great bloodlines -- his dad was a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins -- and a high ceiling as a prospect. I can't wait to see him continue to develop.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter *@CFD22.*

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