It’s time for Heismanpundit’s annual list of the fastest players in college football.
Now, some of you are going to disagree with parts of this, most likely by quoting a hand-timed 40-yard dash that you read about on some fan site, or a track time that can’t be independently verified. And I get that some pretty fast players may not make it here. This is a very tough list to make and just because a certain player does not make this list, it does not mean I am saying he is not fast!
But I am basing this list upon hard data, meaning verifiable and relatively recent track times. I am looking for speed, not quickness. If a mark is in the distant past and the player’s body composition has changed markedly or an injury has occurred, I take that into account. I compile the data and combine it with my knowledge of track and field (I am an aficionado of the sport) as well as my own observations of how these players move on the gridiron, plus other factors such as weight gain and abundance of available data.
This list recognizes that most of the 40-yard dash times reported out there are bogus, due not only to inaccurate and scurrilous timing methods (a strength coach’s thumb being the main arbiter most of the time), but also because they are run under widely disparate and unreported conditions that render them unreliable.
The list is not about anecdotal evidence, but quantifiable data that we can verify. Track marks are generated under mostly uniform conditions (across a narrow range of parameters) with reliable timing instruments. While it is true that some players without a track time might indeed be very fast on the football field, it is difficult to accurately measure their speed compared to players who do have such times. So those are the players we stick to on this list.
Also, some of you will question the relevance of these marks when it comes to football, as in “Why does it matter if a football player can run a fast 200 meters when a football field is 100 yards?” The answer is that each track event provides us clues as to the overall speed potential of an athlete. A certain 100-meter time relates to a certain 40-yard dash mark. There’s basically no need to time a 10.60 or better sprinter in the 40–-you already know he’s fast, probably in the 4.4 to 4.5 range! A good 200-meter time indicates an athlete’s ability to maintain his speed (and hence, go ‘downtown’ on the football field). When someone long jumps a certain distance, it is often because he possesses excellent foot speed. And so on. Remember: ‘Quick’ and ‘fast’ do not always go hand in hand. And having the ability to start and stop on a dime, or cut without slowing down are nice attributes to have but they are separate items from speed itself.
The track marks help give us a more accurate measurement of true speed. [Note: Most of these marks are taken from Track and Field News, the bible of the sport, while a few are culled if necessary from Dyestat.com] We do take a few other factors into account to come up with what we think is an accurate list so it’s not necessarily just a matter of ranking players by best marks. Oh, and most of these guys are pretty darn good football players, too. Think track and football don’t mix? Well, at HP they do. There is no such thing as ‘football speed’ or ‘track speed’. There is only speed. A player is either fast or he is not. Whether he is good at football or not is another story. So take another look. Without further ado (and please, any additions are welcome if we overlook them), here is the list for 2012:
1. Marvin Bracy, incoming freshman, WR, Florida State — The long reign of Jeff Demps as the fastest man in college football is over. The new champ is in the process of chasing Demps’ junior 100-meter record of 10.01 set back in 2008. Bracy has had some hamstring issues as a senior, but has still come through with marks of 10.25 in the 100 (10.05 wind-aided), 21.02 in the 200 and 6.08 in the indoor 55m dash (a high school record). He’s a raw, emerging talent as a wide receiver, but he did well in the Army All-American All-Star Game and, to no surprise, his speed attributes were glossed over by commentators unfamiliar with his accomplishments in track and field. He has the ability to contribute right away for the Seminoles, but at some point he may have to decide between the gridiron and the track. No doubt, his future is bright in both.
Here’s a look at the fastest man in college football for 2012:
2. Marquise Goodwin, Senior, WR, Texas — Goodwin makes a compelling case to be considered the fastest man on this list and he is certainly the fastest proven player in college football, with 94 catches and 1,947 all-purpose yards in his career. He is also a world-class long jumper who has a good chance to be competing in London this summer. His best 100m time is 10.38 (10.24 wind-aided), but he has soared 26-9 3/4 in the long jump (27-4 slightly wind-aided) while winning NCAA and USA Outdoor titles.
3. Dallas Burroughs, Sophomore, WR, Boise State — The fastest man ever to come out of Idaho, Burroughs blazed to a 10.34 100m and a 21.06 200m as a senior in high school. He got his feet wet as a true freshman in 2011, catching 9 passes for 175 yards and one score for the Broncos.
4. Miles Shuler, Sophomore, WR, Rutgers — Foster ran a 10.39 100m and a 6.35 indoor 60m as a high school junior. It’s not easy to put up those kind of marks in a cold weather state, where training days are limited, so it’s possible that he’s even faster than listed. Shuler carried the ball 6 times for 42 yards as a 2011 true freshman, but he should see more playing time in 2012.
5. Sheroid Evans, Sophomore, CB, Texas — Just a shade behind Shuler is Evans, a sophomore cornerback for the Longhorns who had 8 tackles and forced a fumble as a 2011 frosh. He’s a remarkable athlete with bests of 10.39 in the 100m, 20.82 in the 200m and 50.55 in the 400m hurdles.
6. Ronald Darby, incoming freshman, CB, Florida State — Darby and Bracy form the fastest incoming freshman duo in the country. Darby’s 10.41 100m is a bit behind Bracy’s, but his 21.05 200m is right there with his future teammate. He also has gone 6.77 in the indoor 60 and 6.28 in the 55. A former Notre Dame commit, Darby was one of the most highly-sought-after recruits in the country.
7. Damiere Byrd, Sophomore, WR, South Carolina — Byrd is a speedy wide receiver with a 100m best of 10.41 (10.36 wind-aided) and indoor best of 6.26 in the 55m and 6.70 in the 60m. He carried the ball 10 times for 73 yards and caught one pass for 16 yards as a 2011 true freshman.
8. D.J. Monroe, Running Back, Senior, Texas — Monroe is a former Texas state high school 100m champ with a best of 10.41 in the 100 meters. He had 326 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards for the Longhorns last season.
9. Skye Dawson, Senior, Wide Receiver, TCU — Dawson has bests of 10.41 in the 100 meters and 6.69 in the indoor 60m. He was a key contributor to the Horned Frogs’ 11-2 record last year, catching 45 passes for 500 yards and five scores.
10. Derrick Hopkins, Junior, Wide Receiver, South Florida — Hopkins is a lightning-quick smurf who has best of 10.43 in the 100m and 20.97 in the 200m. He caught four passes for 34 yards and had a 42-yard kickoff return for the Bulls in 2011.
Keep in mind that this is a group that is still very fast. In some cases, they did not make the final list despite higher nominal times because of a combination of factors like wear and tear, injury history, etc.
Rashad Ross, Sr., WR, Arizona State — 10.43 100m, 21.01 200m
Hunter Furr, So., RB, East Carolina — 10.46 100m, 21.15 200m
Justin Hunter, Jr., WR, Tennessee — 25-10 3/4 Long Jump
Andre Debose, Jr., WR, Florida — 10.46 100m, 21.31 200m
Devon Smith, Sr., WR, Penn State — 10.49 100m, 6.63 60m
Mike Bellamy, So., RB, Clemson — 10.51 100m, 21.12 100m
Bradley Sylve, RS Fr., DB, Alabama — 10.49 100m (10.18 wind-aided)
Robert Woods, Jr., WR, USC — 21.04 200m, 46.17 400m
Dior Mathis, So., DB, Oregon — 10.49 100m
Denard Robinson, Sr., QB, Michigan — 10.44 100m
Sheldon Price, Sr., CB, UCLA — 10.51 100m
Sammy Watkins, So., WR, Clemson — 21.11 200m, 10.57 100m (10.45 wind-aided)
George Farmer, So., WR, USC — 10.55 100m (10.40w), 21.41 200m
De’Anthony Thomas, So., WR/RB, Oregon — 10.57 100m, 21.01 wind-aided 200m
Marqise Lee, So. WR, USC — 25-1 long jump.