Ranking the 10 Most Explosive Players in College Football

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst ISeptember 17, 2012

Ranking the 10 Most Explosive Players in College Football

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    This ranking of college football's most explosive players isn't just a list of the country's fastest players, because most of their 40-yard-dash times are not official and don't always translate into on-field speed.

    With this list I wanted to rank college football's most explosive players: guys who can cut back across the line and burst through a hole with the football, not just guys who can run the fastest in a straight line on a track.

    Some players just have that combination of acceleration, vision and quickness that makes them so dynamic on the field. They have that knack to break out a big play and electrify their team and the crowd.

    Here's my list of the 10 most explosive players in college football today.

Honorable Mentions

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    College football has so many explosive players that it was hard to slim down the list to 10 guys. Here are some of the outstanding players who just missed the cut.

    Skye Dawson, WR, TCU

    Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas

    Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State

    Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

    Kenny Hilliard, RB, LSU

    Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

    Marcus Murphy, RB, Missouri

    Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

    Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss

10. Marqise Lee, USC

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    Remember this kid's name; I think you're going to be hearing about him for a long, long time. The receiver caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman last year. This year, he already has 29 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

    He only returned 10 kicks last year, but one of them went for a touchdown. This year he's already taken one of his first seven returns back for a score.

    Lee's ability to break away from defenders is impressive to witness. He has incredible acceleration and body control that allows him to be a threat all over the field.

9. Damiere Byrd, South Carolina

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    Damiere Byrd may be the least-known player on the list, but he also may be the fastest. Ask any Gamecocks fan—this kid is as fast as they come.

    As a freshman last year, he only had one catch but got 10 carries and turned them into 73 yards, an impressive 7.3 YPC. This year he has four catches for 188 yards and a score, giving him a ridiculous 47.0 yards per catch. 

    Keep your eyes on Byrd this season.

8. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

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    Odell Beckham Jr. has gotten off to a great start this season with nine catches for 143 yards and a punt return touchdown.

    He has great agility and lateral speed that allow him to bring in a pass and break away in any direction. On a team full of great athletes, Beckham might be the most athletic of them all.

7. Andre Debose, Florida

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    Debose was overshadowed by Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps at Florida, but nobody can take away Debose's big-play ability. As a returner, Debose is a threat every time he touches the ball.

    Check out these highlights from his freshman and sophomore years, and it's easy to see how explosive Demps can be. He's been used sparingly on offense so far this season, but he still has five punt returns for 59 yards and six kick returns for 145 yards.

6. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

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    Thomas is the perfect fit for Oregon's fast-paced spread offense. The sophomore running back is only 5'9", 173 lbs, but has the quickness and speed to destroy defenses.

    Thomas has 228 rushing yards on 13 carries this season to go along with 11 catches and 154 receiving yards. He also has seven total touchdowns. Read those stats again, and you'll realize that he averages 14 yards per reception and an absurd 17.5 yards per rush.

5. Justin Hunter, Tennessee

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    Hunter is one of the best and most skilled receivers in the country. Last year he tore his ACL and missed nearly the entire season, but this year he's well on his way toward proving himself as one of the nation's top wideouts.

    Hunter has 22 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns, and he has shown some of his big-play ability. He has an uncanny ability to get open, and he can make things happen once he has the ball in his hands.

    Just check out these highlights from two seasons ago in a game against Ole Miss. Here's the first play from scrimmage and then another touchdown for good measure. The fact that Hunter is so successful against the incredibly fast defenses of the SEC is an indicator of just how good he is.

4. Denard Robinson, Michigan

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    Robinson is technically a quarterback, but he's more like a running back who throws. The senior has 3,580 rushing yards so far in his college career and is one of the fastest players in the country.

    These highlights from last year's game against Ohio State show the full range of Robinson's capabilities. Robinson combines elusiveness with great vision and a knack for breaking out a huge run when Michigan needs it.

    I'm not sure what NFL teams will think of Robinson when he enters the draft next year, but for now, we should just appreciate how electrifying the dual-threat quarterback is at the college level.

3. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

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    Franklin has emerged as a potential Heisman candidate this season. He has 66 carries for 541 yards and three touchdowns, which gives him an insane 8.2 yards per carry. He also has eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown for an impressive 15.1 yards per catch.

    The senior running back isn't as quick as De'Anthony Thomas, but he has more strength and slashing ability. He stays low, which allows him to sprint through a hole, absorb a hit and still accelerate upfield.

    He was instrumental in UCLA's upset of Nebraska a week ago, and his best plays from that game are incredibly impressive.

2. Marquise Goodwin, Texas

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    Marquise Goodwin is the best athlete not only in college football, but in all of college sports. He is a two-time NCAA national champion in the long jump and has also competed in the triple jump, 60-meter dash and 100-meter dash.

    Goodwin holds the University of Texas school record for the long jump and competed as a member of Team USA in the London Olympics in the event.

    The receiver is currently a senior for the Longhorns. As of this past Saturday, his career numbers are impressive: 99 catches for 1,149 yards (11.6 average) and 35 rushes for 345 yards (9.9 average).

    Goodwin has outstanding breakaway speed and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball—like he did on Saturday against Ole Miss.

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson

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    Watkins is electrifying. As a true freshman last year, he took the nation by storm. The wideout had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, as well as 231 rushing yards and a kick return touchdown.

    He's agile and elusive, but it's his acceleration that is breathtaking. He has the ability to get into that top gear so quickly once he hits a hole or breaks around the outside.

    He was suspended for the first two games of this season, but he immediately proved to everyone that he wouldn't miss a step. Watkins has an extremely bright career ahead of him.