10 Freak-of-Nature Athletes in 2015 College Football Recruiting Class
While Jadeveon Clowney and Julio Jones rose to stardom in college, both players were deemed freaks of nature as recruits long before they stepped foot on campus.
The 2015 recruiting class is stocked with athletic phenoms who have the nation’s top coaches in hot pursuit of their services.
Defensive end Josh Sweat, the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, is a 6’4”, 245-pound bundle of fast-twitch burst and power who runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash. However, he's hardly alone in the category of special athletes in this class.
Which other players in the 2015 class are candidates to acquire the “freak” label before they move on to the next level?
*Players listed in alphabetical order.
While Florida speedster George Campbell has the frame and size necessary to be an elite safety, the 6’3”, 190-pounder is rated as one of the nation’s top wide receivers.
Campbell, who has caught 61 passes for 1,535 yards and 12 scores over the last two seasons at East Lake High School, broke off a blistering time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash at The Opening, per Chris Nee of Noles247.
In addition to his speed, Campbell posted a 39-inch vertical jump in Oregon.
Campbell’s frame and athleticism make him a candidate to excel on defense, but as his strong display at The Opening proved, the former Michigan commitment is one of the nation’s most dynamic playmakers in the 2015 class.
Neville Gallimore is still relatively raw as a football player, but his physical prowess has helped him blow up into one of the nation’s elite defensive linemen in the 2015 class.
As noted by Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, the 6’3”, 311-pound import from Canada is the first international recruit to ever earn invitations to The Opening and the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Wiltfong also states that he’s consistently been timed at less than five seconds in the 40-yard dash. Considering that he only played in four games as a junior due to an injury, The Creature—a nickname given to him by his high school coach—is a fitting moniker for the No. 34 overall player in the 2015 class, per 247Sports.
Even though he’s listed as an athlete, 4-star dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson has often repeated his preference of being a signal-caller at the next level.
However, at 6’4”, 200 pounds with sub-4.5 speed, Gibson has the athleticism to play multiple positions on either side of the ball.
It’s worth noting that Gibson has scored touchdowns as a passer, rusher and receiver over the last three seasons at Plantation, Florida’s American Heritage High School.
But as Bleacher Report’s Kynon Codrington notes, one of the primary reasons why Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are in a strong position with Gibson is because of their intention to use him as a quarterback.
“Ohio State is my clear leader,” Gibson said. “I like the offense they run, I really like everything. I know it's cold, but it's cold in the NFL too. The most important thing is they want me a quarterback, not athlete."
Meyer is familiar with landing freakish athletes from South Florida, and he has the Buckeyes poised to repeat that feat with Gibson.
Speed and athleticism are two of the defining traits that define Oregon’s offense in recent years.
Those traits are apparent in 4-star running back pledge Taj Griffin. The Powder Springs, Georgia, native’s game is personified by explosive bursts and the ability to cut on a dime in open space, as noted by Justin Hopkins of 247Sports.
In Sparq national testing at The Opening, Griffin ripped off a blistering 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash and a vertical jump just shy of 46 inches, according to JC Shurburtt of 247Sports. Griffin also scored a time of 3.97 seconds in the pro agility shuttle, which measures quickness and change of direction.
It’s attributes like those that make Griffin a candidate to be the next dynamic weapon to thrive in the Ducks’ spread uptempo attack.
Another player who flashed freakish athleticism during The Opening is 5-star Utah native Porter Gustin.
While he’s expected to be a defensive end or outside linebacker in college, the 6’5”, 240-pounder has the skills and the frame to play tight end or quarterback, as noted by Barton Simmons of 247Sports.
According to Chris Nee of Noles247, Gustin busted off a 4.63 time in the 40 and recorded a 34-inch vertical jump.
That package of versatility and athleticism is what makes Gustin one of the most coveted defensive prospects in the 2015 class.
While events such as The Opening usually favor offensive skill players, 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson turned in a dominant showing at the nation’s premier summer camp.
According to Student Sports, the 6’2”, 215-pound Texas native ran a sub-4.4 time in the 40 and posted a nearly 40-inch vertical jump. He also recorded a time of 4.19 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
His Sparq score of 145.65 helped him finish in the top 10 overall of the event.
Jefferson, who has recorded 188 tackles, 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles over the last two seasons, is an ultra-athletic specimen who projects as a three-down linebacker capable of operating with equal effectiveness against the run and pass in college.
Ray Ray McCloud III
At 5’10”, 184 pounds, Ray Ray McCloud III is not the most physically imposing recruit in the country. However, pound-for-pound, there may not be a more explosive talent in the 2015 class.
McCloud, who rushed for 2,316 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, is one of the nation’s most electrifying weapons with the ball in his hands.
As he’s proved on the camp circuit this summer, McCloud is also capable of excelling as a corner on the college level.
The Clemson commit is expected to play offense in college, where he will look to become the next game-breaking skill position standout from the state of Florida.
At 6’4”, 341 pounds, Kahlil McKenzie moves in a manner that is almost unfair for a 17-year-old recruit.
The son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is a specimen who won the defensive line MVP award at The Opening, as noted by Ryan Callahan of 247Sports.
While the 2015 crop of defensive linemen is deep with potential impact performers, McKenzie stands out due to his size, brawn and ability to move like a player who is 50 pounds lighter.
The Tennessee commitment is an unblockable force on the prep level, and he should bring a skill set that is reminiscent of former Vols standout defensive linemen such as John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth.
Last season, Louisiana produced its share of freakish talents headlined by current LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette.
This year, Destrehan 4-star athlete Kirk Merritt made a name for himself by winning the Sparq national championship.
The 5’11”, 206-pounder won that prestigious honor thanks in part to the improvement he made in his 40-yard dash time from 4.6 seconds to 4.43 seconds, as he detailed to B/R’s Tyler Donohue.
“My 40-yard dash performance was huge,” Merritt said. “My main focus while training for this was to improve that time. I ran a 4.60 at the New Orleans Nike camp and knew I’d need to improve on that, so I focused on getting faster for this competition, and it paid off.”
Merritt is capable of making his mark on either side of the ball in college, but with his explosiveness, it appears he will do his damage as a receiver at the next level.
Sweat has all of the tools necessary to become the next in a long line of elite pass-rushing defensive ends who have emerged in recent classes.
Part of what makes him such an intriguing prospect is the physical attributes he brings to the table.
According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, Sweat finished second overall with a score of 148.17 in the Sparq testing held at The Opening last month.
As Donohue noted, Sweat drew high praise from Merritt—who was the only player to best his score.
“Josh is just a freak athlete,” Merritt stated. “I knew it would be tough to beat him. He’s the kind of athlete you never really see, and I thought he was amazing.”
Sweat, who recorded 94 tackles and 22 sacks as a junior, will take official visits to Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Virginia Tech.
Combine his production with a standout performance at The Opening, and it’s clear to see why Sweat is in a class of his own when it comes to freaks in the 2015 cycle.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.