Speed is a virtue in college football. It is just as important, if not more so, than any other talent that a collegiate player can posses. With misdirection and option plays implemented heavily in college playbooks,the fastest players usually shine above the rest.
These players have the ability to score on any given play, leaving fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a big run or catch. In my opinion, speed is one of the most exciting things about college football.
From an electrifying duo in Gainesville, to a former Olympic qualifier, who now spends his time under center, this list has the top burners. Every player mentioned in this slide show has their own extensive highlight tape filled with breath-taking moves and jaw-dropping speed.
This isn't a top 10 list or anything of that nature—it is just the fastest guys, in my opinion. Of course, there are fast guys out there that I didn't include, just for the simple fact that there are so many of them.
If you feel I missed somebody, or just want to add your favorite fleet-footed superstars, feel free to add them.
Coming out of high school, Noel Devine had extremely high expectations. Not only was he touted as the next Barry Sanders, but he also was expected to fit right into then-head coach Rich Rodriguez's high-powered offense. Devine was comfortable right away as he rushed for six TD and 627 yards while earning an honorable mention for Freshman All-American status.
Like most speed guys, Devine can hurt you on the ground and returning. He has an incredible ability to make precise cuts at full speed and has great acceleration once he gets into open field. His 65-yard run in the 2008 Fiesta bowl, which is also a WVU bowl record, is a perfect example of his intangibles.
He is a workout warrior as well. The 5'7'', 170-pound Devine benched 435 lbs during this summer's workouts and has been clocked at around 4.3 in the 40-yard dash.
Noel's high school highlight tapes have reached Reggie Bush-like YouTube fame, especially a tape from his freshman season. During his high school career he had 92 touchdowns along with many other impressive accolades.
As Noel Devine heads into his junior season at WVU, look for him to have a breakout year.
Jahvid Best comes into his 2009 junior campaign looking to improve on last year's breakout season. He will also find himself on many preseason award lists, as well as a favorite to win the Heisman trophy.
Best was the Pac-10's leading rusher with quite a few impressive performances to boot, including 311 yards and four TD in Cal's season finale against Washington.
Best also had three 200-yard games last season, which set a Cal record. He also had seven rushes that went for 60 yards, and three of those went for 80+ yards.
Best was also second on the team in receptions and served as a return man for Cal. Best can really do it all for the Golden Bears. Look for him to prove it during this upcoming season.
Coming out of high school, Best was known to be a burner. In his senior year of high school, Best won the 100m dash state title and placed second in the 200m dash.
Jahvid also won a Gold Medal in the 200m at the 2005 USTAF Junior Olympics—pretty impressive.
On the gridiron, Best's performances were astronomical, totaling 48 TDs and 3,325 yards rushing, which are both Bay Area single season records. Throughout his high school career, Best would go on to rush for 6,428 yards and 91 TDs.
Coming into this season, Jahvid is arguably the "Best" running back in the country and a player to keep your eye on.
Okay, so you know a guy has to be fast when he is considered a track-first guy who plays football as a second sport. Oh yeah, and he plays football for LSU in the football-crazy Deep South.
In high school, Holliday won the Louisiana 200m dash state title four times and the 100m dash three times. He also reportedly ran a 4.28 40 in high top basketball shoes at an LSU high school football camp, without even starting in a track stance, much to the disbelief of LSU coaches. When they asked Holliday to run it again, certain that the first run was a fluke, he bettered his time to 4.27.
To put into perspective how fast Trindon really is, you must look at last year's Men’s Track & Field 100m Final in September. Holliday finished second in that race to Tyson Gay, who is widely considered the fastest man on the planet, other than Usain Bolt.
Trindon won the NCAA Division One 100m this year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas with a career-best tying 10.00 time. That time was the fourth fastest recorded in the world this year in the 100m dash. With that time, Holliday had won his first individual track championship after placing third and second respectively the previous two years.
Holliday is considered by some to be the fastest man to ever play college football.
Holliday did not play organized football until the seventh grade, simply because his mother wouldn't let him, fearing that he would get hurt. He turned out to have a very impressive career. He started two years in high school and went on to have a total of 4,080 yards rushing and 60 TDs.
Although Holliday isn't the star player of the LSU football team, he is still their biggest returning weapon on offense. A few long runs are almost guaranteed for Holliday's 2009 season.
Anyone who has watched Senior Javier Arenas return a kick knows that he is the most dangerous return man in college football, especially on punts. Arenas has returned six punts in his three full seasons at Alabama. It somehow always seems either he or Florida's return man Brandon James are named SEC Special Teams Player Of The Week.
It doesn't hurt that Arenas was also a track star in high school, although he does not have the pedigree of a Holliday or Jeffrey Demps. Arenas displays very good lateral movement and acceleration, which pays dividends in the return game.
This season, Arenas figures to make a contribution on defense as well as the return game for the strong Crimson Tide. Can't wait to watch this guy in the fall.
When Bert Reed gets into the open field, someone is about to get embarrassed. Reed makes people miss with his fluid movements and 4.3 speed. After a breakout 2008 season, this sophomore seems poised to lead FSU's depleted receiving corp.
While in high school, Scouts.Inc. called Reed an "electrifying speedster in space and a nightmare to handle one-on-one in the open field." Reed has lived up to those expectations so far and seems primed for a huge year for the resurgent Seminoles.
Unless you are a Tar Heel fan, or a hardcore recruiting fan, you probably never heard of Brown.
But that is 100 percent okay, because most people don't really know a lot about this sophomore—but boy does Butch Davis have something in Brown.
Yes, he is an outside linebacker, but during offseason conditioning, this freak of nature accomplished something that I can honestly say I have never seen coming from a linebacker or anyone this big, except maybe USC safety Taylor Mays.
This offseason, Brown ran a 4.28 40-yard dash. Google it—it's the truth.
ESPN.com ranked Brown number five in their top 10 college "Workout Warriors," which was quite an honor for a true sophomore who will start for the first time this season.
The 6'2'', 220-pound Maryland native won state titles in the 100m and 200m dashes while being rated within the top 15 prep players in the country by most recruiting services. He rushed for 1,537 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he collected over 90 solo tackles as a senior.
Brown is just an athlete, a hybrid between a strong safety and a linebacker, like USC's Taylor Mays. Could Brown make the switch to safety?
Obviously he can, with sub 4.3 speed, but I see Butch Davis making him the staple of the Tar Heel linebacking corp for the next couple of years.
Apparently this guy is one of the hardest hitters on the team as well.
So remember, when you're watching the Tar Heels this year, look for this guy to make some monster plays on defense.
If Robert Griffin isn't the best athlete to ever play quarterback, he is certainly the best currently playing the position.
After a very impressive prep career at QB, Griffin received offers from countless top schools that wanted the speedster to switch to WR or CB. He ended up walking on at the only school that agreed to give him a chance at QB: Baylor.
His first appearance at QB came in the second quarter of the season opener against Wake forest, and he has held the starting job ever since. At 18-years-old, he was the nation's youngest QB, and he wasted no time in making a good first impression on Baylor fans.
After taking the starting job, Griffin had an incredible true-freshman season, which later earned him All-Big 12 and Freshman All-American Honors. He was also voted the Big-12 Offensive Freshman Of The Year.
Griffin finished the season with 2,091 yards passing, along with 15 TD's and only three INT's. He set school records in rushing yards by a QB (843) and rushing TD by a QB (13).
Like the other top speed demons in the nation, Jeff Demps and Trindon Holliday, Griffin is an elite sprinter. World class, some would say.
After graduating early to get a head start at Baylor, Griffin went on to win a Big 12 Title in the 400m hurdles while he was only 17. He was also an All-American in Track & Field after finishing third in the 400m National Finals.
In high school, Griffin was named the 2007 Gatorade Texas Boys Track & Field Athlete of Year after he set state records in the 110m and 300m hurdles. He was regarded as one of the nations best prep sprinters as well.
But he also excelled on the football field. In his two years starting at QB, he rushed for 2,161 yards and 32 touchdowns, as well as threw for 3,357 yards and 41 scores with just nine picks.
Griffin has since devoted all of his time to football, but he is still viewed as a possible Olympic Hurdler for 2012.
Robert Griffin comes into this season as one of the most intriguing players in the country, and he looks to improve on his record-breaking freshman performance.
When a player comes in college with the moniker of "The Fastest High School Athlete In The World," he automatically jumps into the mix of speediest guys in college football.
What Jeff Demps did last year for the Gators was just icing on the cake, as he became Urban Meyer's home run threat alongside fellow freshman Chris Rainey.
Demps runs the 40 in 4.24, and he displayed that speed on multiple occasions over the course of last season. He ran for 605 yards, seven TD, and averaged 8.1 YPC.
Jeff broke off huge runs last year. His average touchdown run was 32.7 yards. Five of his seven rushing TDs went for over 36 yards, and three of those five went for 40 yards or more.
All in all, it was a pretty impressive freshmen campaign for the speedster—he earned 2008 SEC All-Freshman Honors.
In high school, Demps was considered one of the fastest football players in the nation. He rushed for 21 TDs and 1,761 yards and 1,401 yards with 16 TDs as a senior respectively.
Besides being a standout in high school, Demps also excelled in track. At the Olympic trails in 2008 he set a high school national record when he ran the 100m in 10.01 seconds. He finished second in that race to American Track superstar Tyson Gay, who ran a 9.77, which was only .05 away from a world record.
Demps also anchored the Florida 4x100 Relay team, which won this year's SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championship. The team that came in second was LSU, which happened to be anchored by Trindon Holliday.
In the 100m dash, Trindon Holliday got the better of Demps after he went on to win the event, Demps slowed down halfway through the race with a tweaked hamstring.
Until an unhampered race goes down between Holliday and Demps, there will still be the debate on who is the faster between the two. The winner of that debate would then become, by default, the fastest man in college football, if not the fastest in the history of college football.
Demps and the defending champion Gators come into the 2009 season with the nation's eye upon them for all the right reasons. Expect big things from this record setting speedster.
After supplying the "lightning" to James Davis's
"thunder" for the past three years, C.J Spiller finally gets a chance to shine on his own. After the graduation of Davis, the fleet-footed Spiller gets the chance to get a majority of the carries Clemson's starting running back.
C.J exploded onto the national stage as a freshmen running back and kick return man.
In his first season at Clemson he rushed for 938 yards and 10 TDs as well as totaling 1,415 all-purpose yards. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry—the best by any ACC player since Warrick Dunn. Spiller also set a couple of Clemson freshmen in-game records.
His next two seasons, although very good, were not as prolific as his freshmen campaign. In his sophomore year, he rushed for 768 yards and three TDs. As a junior, he rushed for 629 yards and seven TD's.
Spiller was a top high school running back, as he attracted the attention of big name colleges like Florida, USC, Miami, and Florida State. He was considered one of the top 10 prospects in the nation by many, and the No. 1 player in the state of Florida.
Over the course of his high school career, he scored 93 TDs and was named All-State three times.
Spiller was a decorated sprinter as well. He was the Florida state champion in the 100m and 200m. At Clemson, Spiller also competes for the Tigers in track, where he has become a fixture on their 4x100 relay team.
He has been named All-ACC in both football and track.
Spiller is primed for a big senior season for the talented Clemson Tigers in 2009.
Redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey does not have the state track titles that some of the other guys on this list have, but if you put him up against anyone in a race, he has a pretty good chance of winning. Jeff Demps and Noel Devin, both on my list of the fastest in football, can attest to this.
Last season, to the joy of Gator players, Demps and Rainey raced 40 yards behind a dorm on campus to settle the dispute of who was the fastest on the team. To the amazement of everyone, it was Rainey who emerged victorious over the man touted as the fastest high school sprinter in history.
But, Rainey is familiar with this type of challenge. When he was in high school, he was challenged by then-North Fort Meyers' running back Noel Devine to a race. Rainey dusted off Devine in a mall parking lot, of all places, cementing his status as one of the fastest football recruits in Florida.
After receiving a medical redshirt for his first year in a Gators' uniform, Rainey returned to show the SEC why he was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school. Along with fellow speed demon Jeff Demps, Rainey rushed for 652 yards and four TD while averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
In high school, Rainey was outstanding, playing for national powerhouse Lakeland. As a senior, he rushed for 2,478 yards and 32 TD's, both are now school records. His performance earned him prestigious U.S. All-American honors, signifying him as one of the best in the nation.
He finished his high school career with over 7,000 yards and 90 TD.
If Rainey can stay healthy, expect him to be a dynamic piece of the offense along with Jeff Demps.
These guys didn't quite make my list, but they are still extremely fast. If you can think of anyone I missed, feel free to say so.
Clemson WR Jacoby Ford, UCLA WR Randall Carroll, NC State WR T. J. Graham, Washingotn State WR Jeshua Anderson, Florida WR Deonte Thompson, Oregon WR Jamere Holland, UNC DB Hunter Furr, Texas DB D.J. Monroe, Florida WR Andre DeBose, USC RB Joe McKnight, LA Tech WR Phillip Livas.