The SPARQ National Championship, a scaled-down scouting combine for the best high school prospects in the country, took place during Nike's The Opening on Tuesday, and the speed of the 2015 class did not disappoint.
Only the 10 players with the highest total scores in the prelims advanced the nationally televised final round, but counting what happened in the afternoon session, seven players ran a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash…and one of those players was a linebacker!
The fastest runner on the day clocked in with a time of 4.30 seconds, which would have beaten Brandin Cooks for the second-fastest time at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and been just behind Dri Archer.
Here's a quick look at the full top 10.
10. DE Josh Sweat (Uncommitted), 4.46 seconds*
You don't get compared to Jadeveon Clowney for nothing.
Josh Sweat made that plain and clear during his 40-yard dash on Tuesday, clocking in at 4.46 seconds—an obscene time for a lineman.
Sweat (6'5", 237 lbs) doesn't have the same thick build as Clowney (6'5", 266 lbs), but it does bear mentioning that Clowney's 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine—a score people rightfully went crazy over—was seven-tenths of a second slower (4.53) than that of Sweat.
Sweat is the No. 2 overall prospect and No. 1 defensive end in the country, and a performance such as this, which included a second place finish in SPARQ rating, will do nothing to threaten that standing.
In-state Virginia Tech is the slight favorite to land his services, per the 247Sports Crystal Ball, with Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee all garnering at least 10 percent of the votes as well.
*Finished 2nd in SPARQ National Championship
9. WR Kirk Merritt (Uncommitted), 4.43 seconds*
Kirk Merritt finished ninth in the battle but first in the war, riding his solid 40-yard dash score and the rest of his dominant measurables to a first-place finish in the SPARQ national championship:
Kirk Merritt with a 148.83 SPARQ score in the National Championships here at The Opening. pic.twitter.com/dVqAtHacJ2— Chris Stonebraker (@CStonebraker) July 9, 2014
Winning this hardware will surely help the recruiting status of Merritt, a 4-star prospect and the No. 145 overall player in the nation. At 5'11", he projects as a hybrid between an all-purpose back and a receiver, and he showed on Tuesday that he has enough speed to play both.
Last year's SPARQ national champion, wide receiver Speedy Noil, finished the cycle as the No. 8 overall prospect. Like Merritt, he stood 5'11" and played his high school ball in Louisiana, but Noil spurned in-state LSU to play for Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.
Merritt's 247Sports Crystal Ball currently has him as a 50-50 split between…well…LSU and Texas A&M. Deja vu, perhaps?
*Finished 1st in SPARQ National Championship
8. WR Derrick Dillon (Florida), 4.41 seconds
Derrick Dillon is lauded for his versatility—according to 247Sports, he can play quarterback and cornerback along with wide receiver—and will bring rarified speed to whatever position holds his future.
Florida could use such a skill at a number of different spots.
At 5'11", 180 pounds, Dillon is roughly the same height as Duke QB Anthony Boone (6'0"), who thrived under new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in 2013. Still, he is participating as a wide receiver at The Opening and projects most realistically to that spot.
He is the No. 148 overall prospect in the country.
7. LB Malik Jefferson (Uncommitted), 4.39 seconds*
Yes, you read that right.
Malik Jefferson is a linebacker. He is 6'2" and weighs 225 pounds. And he just posted a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.
Which is ridiculous.
For context, the fastest linebacker at this year's NFL Scouting Combine was Tahj Jones, who clocked in at 4.48 seconds.
Jefferson's time would have shattered that, and it also would have placed fourth overall behind Trey Marshall, Tony Brown and Curtis Samuel—three lighter, shiftier, skill-position guys—among current college freshmen from The Opening in 2013.
Jefferson was already the No. 11 overall prospect and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country, and this score should only boost his ratings.
Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor are the three leaders to land him, per the 247Sports Crystal Ball, although Alabama is also in pursuit.
*Finished 6th in SPARQ National Championship
6. DB Stephen Johnson (UCLA), 4.37 seconds
Like the No. 1 player on this list, Stephen Johnson jam-packed his day with a stellar run in the afternoon and a commitment in the evening.
Mike Farrell of Rivals announced that he would be the newest member of the UCLA Bruins. He posted a sizzling time of 4.37 seconds during his 40-yard dash, validating the belief that he is one of the fastest prospects in the 2016 class. Oregon, which was his second finalist before committing, must be kicking itself for letting him go.
Alas, Johnson will be playing in Westwood next season, and the Bruins will be happy to have him. He is only the No. 460 overall prospect in the country, but after showing well on Tuesday, there's a chance that might go up as the recruiting services update their rankings.
His speed and versatility are big assets.
5. WR George Campbell (Uncommitted), 4.36 seconds
George Campbell did not disappoint in his encore.
After participating in The Opening as a junior in 2013 and finishing with the fourth-lowest time in the 40-yard dash (4.36), he validated that speed—as if he really needed to—with a 4.36 Tuesday afternoon.
Here, take a look:
Campbell is the No. 25 overall prospect and No. 2 receiver in the country. He is 6'3" and knows how to put his speed to good use.
He committed to Michigan around this time last summer but pulled out of the agreement in December. Now, the Florida native is looking primarily at Clemson and his home-state Gators as potential schools.
Whoever lands him will have gotten a good one.
4. DB Mark Fields (South Carolina), 4.33 seconds
Mark Fields (not the Ford CEO) gave South Carolina fans something to get excited about with his showing on Tuesday, outrunning defenders in pursuit drills and clocking a 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds.
At 5'11", Fields has the size to defend taller receivers—if he has to—at the next level, but he will probably be a bigger asset against downfield burners. He proved he has the speed to stick with anyone.
subjective rankings actually had him a little higher than the composite did, ranking him No. 83 overall and No. 7 among cornerbacks.
He'll provide some much-needed secondary depth in Columbia.
3. WR C.J. Sanders (Notre Dame), 4.32 seconds*
Technically, C.J. Sanders is one of the less-heralded players at The Opening—or at least he is for now. He is only a 3-star prospect and the No. 364 recruit in the country, there are questions about his height (5'9") and he is barely ranked among the top 50 wide receivers.
But that should start to change after the blazing 4.32 Sanders posted in the 40-yard dash Tuesday afternoon—a time that was nearly three-tenths of a second better than the 4.57 he used to qualify.
The result of Sanders' dash was a SPARQ score that pumped up from 121.98 to 139.26, which was enough to get him into the overall top 10.
He might not be a 3-star prospect for long.
*Finished 8th in SPARQ National Championship
2. RB Taj Griffin (Oregon), 4.31 seconds*
Sometimes, the rich get richer.
Or I guess, in this case, the fast get faster.
Griffin is 5'10", 175 pounds and current ranks as the No. 49 overall prospect and No. 1 all-purpose back in the country. The 247Sports subjective rankings already had him a little higher than the composite did, calling him the No. 28 player in the class.
There's a reason Mark Helfrich, Scott Frost and the rest of Oregon's staff reached all the way across the country into Georgia to land this kid. He could be a blur in the Ducks' unique, wide-open system.
*Finished 4th in SPARQ National Championship
1. RB Jordan Scarlett (Miami), 4.30 seconds
Jordan Scarlett had a big day on Tuesday, clocking in with the best 40-yard dash (4.30) of the event during the afternoon and announcing his decision to attend Miami during the evening.
Scarlett is the No. 97 overall prospect and No. 10 running back in the country, but even that is probably selling him short. At 5'10", 210 pounds, he has a unique blend of speed and power for a player.
Until recently, Scarlett was pledged to play at Florida Atlantic—of all places—where his former high school coach, Roger Harriott, will be the running backs coach next year. But he decommitted at the end of June before opening his recruitment and choosing the 'Canes.
With the addition of Scarlett, the four top rated players in Miami's 2015 class—a group that also includes Dexter Williams, Mark Walton and Jordan Cronkite—are capable of playing running back. Miami also landed a good ball-carrier in Joseph Yearby last cycle.
Whenever Duke Johnson leaves for the NFL, there will be no shortage of capable in-house replacements on the roster.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT