Power Ranking the Top 25 Fastest College Football Players for 2014
Speed is the ultimate weapon in today's college football.
Have it, and you can compete with anyone, no matter the difference in size, skill or talent. Don't have it, and you'll get left in the dust.
College coaches are going heavy on speed when recruiting high school and junior college players, looking for fast guys they can turn into strong and skillful athletes. Speed can be developed, but not as easily as the other attributes, thus putting a premium on finding players who already possess a high-octane motor.
We've culled through rosters, recruiting reports and other data to find the fastest guys—both newcomers and veterans—and used their recorded times in the 40-yard dash as well as other races—take note, many of college football's top speedsters are also track stars—along with how they've maximized that speed to rank the 25 swiftest in the FBS heading into the 2014 season.
This was not an easy list to cut down to 25, as we found far more college players worthy of being ranked. To trim the candidate pool, though, we did eliminate players coming off major injuries. Though they've had speed in the past, and very likely will again, at this point it's hard to list them as among the fastest in the game until we've seen them return to peak form.
Here are some speedsters who just missed the cut because of injury:
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
- Andre Debose, WR, Florida
- Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
- Sheroid Evans, CB, Texas
- Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
- Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)
- Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia
- Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
25. Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami (Fla.)
Height, weight: 5'10", 185 lbs
Phillip Dorsett started six games at wideout for Miami last season before a knee injury knocked him out for two months. He returned to play limited snaps in the Hurricanes' bowl game, but after a blazing fast spring on the track, all signs point to Dorsett being at full strength and full speed this fall.
Dorsett ran the 100 meters in 10.58 seconds during the 2014 track season, showing off the speed that enabled him to average 20.9 yards per reception in 2013 with two touchdown catches. For his career, Dorsett has seven TDs and is capable of putting up big numbers, as shown by his 58 receptions for 842 yards as a sophomore.
24. Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
Height, weight: 6'1", 183 lbs
A good way to describe Kolby Listenbee would be that one last firecracker in a box of pyrotechnics that gets forgotten about after all the others have been set off. As explosive as his speed is, it hasn't gotten much use in his two seasons of football at TCU.
Listenbee was the lead leg of the Horned Frogs' Big 12-winning 4x100-meter relay team that placed 10th at the NCAA championships in June, and his wind-aided time of 10.12 seconds at the Big 12 championships in the 100 meters was the fastest by any FBS football player this season, according to Bryan Fischer of NFL.com.
In football, though, he's managed just three receptions in 16 career games as a reserve wideout. His first-ever catch, in 2012, went for 59 yards against Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
23. Dallas Burroughs, WR, Boise State
Height, weight: 5'9", 165 lbs
Dallas Burroughs' claim to fame is being the fastest teenager in Idaho state history, having set the high school state records in the 100 and 200 meters in 2011. That blazing speed hasn't translated into a lucrative college football career, though his potential remains the same.
Burroughs has just 15 receptions in three seasons with Boise State, with nine of those coming as a true freshman in 2012. Those catches have netted him 286 yards and one touchdown—a 54-yard score in a 2011 loss to TCU that snapped the Broncos' 35-game home winning streak.
He might not have gotten much play under Chris Petersen, but with new coach Bryan Harsin in place, Burroughs could find an increased role as a senior.
22. Kailo Moore, RB, Mississippi
Height, weight: 5'10", 188 lbs
We didn't get to see much of Kailo Moore during his freshman season, as he only got 18 carries for 69 yards along with five kick returns. But as fast as he is, there's little doubt Moore will have more involvement this fall.
According to his online bio, Moore won 11 state championships in Mississippi during high school, one of which came when he was actually in eighth grade. His personal bests in the 100 (10.30) and 200 (21.22) are comparable with the fastest guys in college football. He's just waiting for his chance to use that speed in more game situations.
21. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Height, weight: 5'11", 195 lbs
So many things go into being a great cornerback, not the least of which is the kind of speed and agility to keep up with bigger, faster wide receivers. Kendall Fuller isn't the fastest corner in the country, but he knows where to be when the ball is thrown, as shown by his six interceptions as a true freshman in 2013.
Fuller, whose older brother Kyle was a senior defensive back for Virginia Tech last year and was taken by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, was a freshman All-American and was the ACC's defensive rookie of the year. In addition to the picks, he made 58 tackles.
With a reported 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash, Fuller has already put himself in position for an NFL career like the one his brother is about to begin. NFLDraftScout.com has him listed as the No. 1 cornerback in the 2017 draft class.
20. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Height, weight: 6'2", 218 lbs
Not only is T.J. Yeldon one of the fastest players in college football, he's also one of the strongest. His size has him on track to be an NFL running back, but the speed is what will get noticed first and foremost.
Yeldon has been clocked as quick as 4.35 seconds in the 40, yet such sprint times don't show the true speed of a player in full pads who's trying to elude tacklers. In games is where Yeldon shows off his quickness over and over, as shown by his career average of more than six yards per carry over two seasons.
Given some space, he's gone, which makes him great on pass-catching or stretch plays where he can accelerate after that first step.
19. Stacy Coley, WR, Miami (Fla.)
Height, weight: 6'1", 185 lbs
The loss of speedy Phillip Dorsett to a midseason knee injury contributed as much to Miami's second-half swoon as when standout tailback Duke Johnson went down with a broken ankle. But at the same time, those ailments provided an opportunity for other players to step up, and Stacy Coley ran through that door faster than anyone else.
Coley had 33 catches and seven touchdowns as a true freshman, averaging just short of 18 yards per reception. Though Miami lost four of six down the stretch, Coley was getting better each game, showing off his 4.29-second 40-yard speed to break off touchdown catches of 81 yards (his only reception of the game) against Virginia Tech and 63 against Virginia.
Add in 790 yards on kickoff and punt returns, and Coley ended the year with 1,461 all-purpose yards, the 10th-most in school history.
18. Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan
Year: True freshman
Height, weight: 6'0", 205 lbs
The highest-rated recruit in Michigan history—he finished as the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2014 class—Jabrill Peppers enters college with a lot of hype. A lot of that has to do with Peppers' speed and elusiveness.
Logged in at 4.40 seconds in the 40, Peppers has the speed to be a running back, wide receiver, defensive back or return specialist, and just before enrolling at Michigan in June, he ran a 10.52-second 100 meters to win a state title in New Jersey.
Peppers appears in line to start for the Wolverines as a cornerback, but with that speed, he could end up playing all over the field in many positions and roles each game.
17. Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State
Year: True freshman
Height, weight: 6'0", 190 lbs
Urban Meyer used speed, and lots of it, to help win national titles at Florida. He's looking to do the same at Ohio State and has loaded up on speedy players in the 2014 recruiting class, led by flashy receiver Curtis Samuel.
Samuel, a 4-star athlete from Brooklyn, played all over the field in high school but may be who OSU turns to early on this season at running back. He averaged more than 11 yards per carry as a senior, scoring 12 touchdowns on just 91 handoffs, and was clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40.
16. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Year: True freshman
Height, weight: 6'1", 175 lbs
Alabama doesn't just look for speed on the football field; it finds it on the track and anywhere else it can. With Marlon Humphrey, it's bringing in a defensive back who's been able to show off his speed on an international level.
Humphrey, a 5-star prospect who should team with fellow freshman Tony Brown for one of the swiftest tandems in any FBS secondary, was part of the U.S. junior national team that competed last summer in the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine as a hurdler.
When not racing on the track, Humphrey was a shutdown corner in high school who had 13 career interceptions.
15. Cameron Echols-Luper, WR, TCU
Height, weight: 6'0", 190 lbs
The young speed that TCU is stockpiling on its roster should pay off as it continues to transition to power-conference football in the Big 12, and Cameron Echols-Luper is integral to that speed movement.
Another member of the Horned Frogs' 4x100-relay team that made it to the NCAA championships and featured fellow wideout Kolby Listenbee, Echols-Luper is the more versatile of the two and as a result, saw more action last season as a freshman. He only had four catches for 21 yards but contributed in other ways.
A former high school quarterback, Echols-Luper twice threw passes last season and completed both, including a 38-yard touchdown throw against Texas, and he averaged better than 13 yards on 14 punt returns.
14. Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
Year: True freshman
Height, weight: 5'9", 182 lbs
When it came down to the final days of the 2014 recruiting season and signing day was almost upon us, coaches all over the country were chasing after those last few uncommitted prospects who would help beef up the recruiting class. Adoree' Jackson was too fast for all of them, though the Los Angeles-area 5-star prospect slowed down long enough to stay home and choose USC.
His 4.44 speed will be very helpful in keeping up with the many big and fast receivers in the Pac-12, and as a two-way star in high school who also played receiver, he has the intuition to know what angles to take. Not only is he fast, he's a heck of a jumper, having won a California state title in the long jump.
13. Miles Shuler, WR, Northwestern
Height, weight: 5'10", 175 lbs
Miles Shuler ran the 100 meters in 10.7 seconds in high school, and he had a 40 time of 4.30 seconds. Those were some of the reasons why Rutgers chased the in-state talent as part of the 2011 recruiting class, and why Northwestern was glad to bring him on after Shuler transferred from the New Jersey school following two years of minimal action.
Shuler, a 4-star recruit out of high school, only had five receptions and seven rushing attempts in his two years with Rutgers. At Northwestern, he has a chance to help open up an offense that failed to score 20 points in five games last season.
12. DeAndrew White, WR, Alabama
Height, weight: 6'0", 190 lbs
Nearly every player Alabama has brought in over the last few years has been of the 4- or 5-star variety, but not every standout prospect blossoms into a superstar. That's a good way of describing the career of DeAndrew White, who goes into his final season with just 54 receptions and eight touchdowns.
A 4-star prospect ranked as the No. 13 wide receiver in the country back in 2010, White has never been able to crack the top rung of the Crimson Tide's pass-catching corps despite 40-yard times as low as 4.40 seconds and a high school state title in the 200 meters. Last year was his best, catching 32 passes for 534 yards and four TDs, but he had two or fewer receptions in eight of Alabama's 13 games.
White did give Tide fans hope for a breakout final year when he had a career game in the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. He had three catches for 139 yards and a 67-yard touchdown, outracing Sooners defensive back Quentin Hayes to run down the pass.
11. Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Height, weight: 5'11", 188 lbs
There wasn't just one person responsible for Florida State having the nation's top-ranked pass defense in 2013, but Ronald Darby deserves as much credit as anyone else. For the second straight year, he played the role of shutdown corner by running just as fast (if not faster) than all the receivers he was defending.
In 2013, Darby intercepted two passes and broke up four other passes while making nine starts, showing off wheels that have been clocked at 4.37 seconds for the 40 and 21.05 seconds for the 200 meters. With Lamarcus Joyner in the NFL, Darby will be relied on even more to stop opponents' best route-runners in 2014.
10. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
Height, weight: 6'2", 215 lbs
Speedy guys don't always have to be tiny, as Ty Montgomery has shown during his strong Stanford career.
While his time in the 40 (4.46, according to NFLDraftScout.com) won't contend for the top spots and he hasn't doubled as a track star, Montgomery makes up for it with great footwork and cutting ability. Those attributes have enabled him to become one of the nation's top all-purpose athletes.
In 2013, Montgomery was second in the FBS in kickoff return average at 30.3 yards, which included two touchdowns. Add in 61 receptions for 958 yards and 10 TDs, as well as 159 yards on 13 rushes, and Montgomery finished ninth nationally with 157.7 all-purpose yards per game.
Last year, Montgomery was honored as the Jet Award winner, given to the nation's top return specialist.
9. Broderick Snoddy, RB, Georgia Tech
Height, weight: 5'9", 190 lbs
The option rushing game is big on players being able to hit angles and make cuts, both of which require speed. Broderick Snoddy has that speed, and he is just waiting to get more chances to show it.
In two seasons with Georgia Tech, Snoddy has carried the ball just 37 times for a team that runs the ball more than 80 percent of the time. Last season, he averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 150 yards, but it was only as a backup or fill-in.
Snoddy has short-distance speed, as shown by his performances for the Yellow Jackets track team in the 60-meter dash. With times as low as 6.67 seconds, which is a school record, Snoddy could be looked at to get small bunches of yards in quick bursts.
8. Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M
Year: True freshman
Height, weight: 5'11", 180 lbs
With a nickname like "Speedy," being fast isn't optional. Otherwise we'd be talking about Devante Noil and the potential he brings to Texas A&M this fall both at receiver and in the return game.
The 5-star athlete from Louisiana runs a 4.40 in the 40, which isn't the fastest on this list but is still darn good. And it was more than enough to help him dominate at the high school level, not only running for 1,345 yards and 20 touchdowns but also throwing for more than 2,200 yards and hauling in three touchdown passes.
Though he's yet to play a college game, A&M's online bio for him is already hyping what to expect in 2014 by noting that Noil has "blistering speed and the innate ability to make defenders miss."
7. Tony Brown, CB, Alabama
Year: True freshman
Height, weight: 6'0", 188 lbs
As if Alabama's secondary wasn't fast enough, the Crimson Tide got even swifter during the latest recruiting haul thanks to guys like Tony Brown.
With 4.35-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Brown epitomizes the so-called "SEC speed" that 'Bama and the rest of the teams in the conference seem to have in overabundance. With Brown, it's also wrapped in a 5-star prospect who was rated as the No. 9 overall prospect in the country this year.
Had he remained in high school—Brown graduated early and enrolled in college in January—he'd have vied for state titles in track in Texas. During his prep days, he ran as fast as 10.37 seconds in the 100 and was the 2013 USATF junior national champion in the 110-meter hurdles.
6. Tyreek Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
Height, weight: 5'9", 185 lbs
The only junior college transfer on our list, Tyreek Hill didn't make it based on just what he did in high school or for Garden City Community College, where he had more than 2,100 yards and 18 touchdowns of total offense in two seasons.
Instead, it's what he's done since showing up at Oklahoma State in February, starting with how he rewrote the OSU record book for sprinters. In his first two meets, he set (and then reset) the indoor school mark for the 60-meter dash, and then he later won the Big 12 indoor title in the 200. Not long after that, he turned heads, literally, by running past his teammates during spring practice.
His high school sprint times were some of the fastest in history, prompting the apt choice of @ImFasterThanYa for his Twitter handle. With Mike Gundy in need of speed all over to keep pace with Baylor and the rest of the conference, Hill should get a lot of touches this fall.
5. Raheem Mostert, RB, Purdue
Height, weight: 5'11", 190 lbs
With as bad as Purdue was last season in going 1-11, it can use any sort of speed burst. That's where Raheem Mostert and his championship-level times come in.
Mostert has been used primarily as a kick returner for the Boilermakers in his first three years, and he enters the fall ranked third in school history with 1,558 return yards. He led the nation in kick-return average as a freshman in 2011, at 33.5 yards per return, and had a 100-yard touchdown return against Penn State last year.
This year, Mostert won the Big Ten titles in the 100 and 200 meters in outdoor track, as well as the 60 and 200 meters during the indoor season. A converted wide receiver, he should get some touches in the backfield this fall as Purdue tries to improve one of the worst offenses in the FBS.
4. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
Height, weight: 5'11", 215 lbs
Oregon might have lost one of the fastest running backs in the nation when De'Anthony Thomas left for the pros a season early, but with Thomas Tyner waiting in the wings—and flying past Thomas during the 2013 season—the loss was minimal.
Tyner was electric as a true freshman last year, finishing with 711 yards and nine touchdowns on just 115 carries. After Thomas got hurt early in the season, Tyner got more integrated into the Ducks spread running game and had several big outings, most notably his 22-carry, 140-yard performance in the Civil War victory over Oregon State to end the regular season.
He also had 14 catches for 134 yards, using his speed out of the backfield to fly past linebackers and safeties assigned to cover him.
Though he doesn't run track anymore, Tyner is a high school state record-holder in Oregon, according to his online bio. That came in 2011, as a sophomore, when he reportedly ran the 100 meters in 10.43 seconds.
3. Khalfani Muhammad, RB, California
Height, weight: 5'7", 170 lbs
If Sonny Dykes is going to get things turned around at California, he's going to do it with speed. That starts with Khalfani Muhammad, one of the fastest players to come out of the Golden State in years.
Muhammad was thrust into action as a true freshman in 2013 and fared well, rushing for 445 yards and four touchdowns on just 75 touches. That might not seem like much, but that yardage output was tops for the pass-happy Golden Bears.
Muhammad also averaged 13.4 yards on 14 receptions, scoring on an 11-yard TD pass in a midseason loss to Arizona.
Speed is what Muhammad has to rely on because of his diminutive stature, but the multiple state-title winning high school track star from Los Angeles more than maximizes his assets. According to his school bio, Muhammad ran the second-fastest 100-meter time in state history at 10.23 seconds in 2012.
2. Levonte Whitfield, WR, Florida State
Height, weight: 5'7", 184 lbs
To explain to a college football novice just how important speed is to the game, all you need to do is show the (very) brief clip of Levonte Whitfield completely changing last season's BCS National Championship Game with one amazing burst of speed.
As a true freshman, the little kick returner/wide receiver known as "Kermit" made a name for himself as an expert returner, leading the nation in average at 36.4 yards per return. According to his online bio, Whitfield's average broke a 59-year-old ACC record and was the seventh-best average in NCAA history.
And that was before he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Auburn in the title game, turning a 24-20 Auburn lead into a three-point Florida State advantage in just 11 seconds.
Though he's still got a lot of work to do to break into FSU's wide receiver rotation, Whitfield has already established himself as a premier returner who can back up the 4.37-second 40 time he posted prior to college.
1. Devon Allen, WR, Oregon
Year: Redshirt freshman
Height, weight: 6'0", 190 lbs
If you haven't heard of Devon Allen, the fastest player in college football, don't worry. You'll soon be hearing a lot about Oregon's latest speed demon.
Allen redshirted last season, with his skills not needed on a team overflowing with fast wide receivers. But with top wideout Bralon Addison suffering a knee injury in April and questionable to play this fall, the Ducks receiving corps needs all the weapons it can get.
Enter Allen, a record-setting track star in high school in Arizona who in June won the 110-meter title at both the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon, and the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento. He's the first collegiate athlete to sweep those titles in the same year since Renaldo Nehemiah in 1979, according to Taylor Dutch of Pac-12.com.
While Allen has yet to show what he can do on the football field in an official game, he did make a big impact in Oregon's spring scrimmage with two touchdowns.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.