The recent trend of no-huddle offenses in the Pac-12, combined with an uptempo formula that barely gives defenses a chance to set up for the next play, has led to an increased importance on one athletic trait in particular: speed.
While speed alone is never enough to create one of the best players in the country, it's almost a requirement for making plays in 2014. Those who bumble and stumble their way down the field, breaking tackles and dragging defenders along the way, still have a place in the game.
But more appealing to college coaches is the guy who can simply take the ball and outrun anybody trying to catch him. Measuring speed is one of the more inexact sciences in sports. You'll hear about a guy running a 4.3 40-yard dash and then look up his official time, which happens to be in the 4.5-4.6 range.
In ranking the five fastest freshmen in the Pac-12, we're using a combination of on-the-record times from the track (be it a 40-yard or 100-meter dash) as well as what players look like carrying the ball. De'Anthony Thomas wasn't the fastest running back at the NFL combine, but anyone who saw what he did to Wisconsin as a freshman knows he's one of the fastest players in the game when the helmet goes on.
Take a look now at the five fastest freshmen in the Pac-12 conference.