12 of College Football's Fastest Players in 2023

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 7, 2023

12 of College Football's Fastest Players in 2023

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    Ole Miss RB Quinshon Judkins
    Ole Miss RB Quinshon JudkinsKevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Turn on any college football game in 2023, and you'll likely see a player or two with elite speed.

    Because the Football Bowl Subdivision will have 133 programs and more than 11,000 scholarship players in 2023, it's impossible to know exactly which players are the fastest without a reliable, publicly available system. However, we can utilize a key resource to identify a dozen of the speediest.

    Throughout the season, Reel Analytics shares the max speeds of ball-carriers each weekend. As a result, defenders aren't really covered here, even though there are a handful of blazers on defense.

    On your marks, get set, go read.

T10-9. Ballard, Henderson, McMillan and McConkey

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    Washington WR Jalen McMillan
    Washington WR Jalen McMillanSteph Chambers/Getty Images

    T-10. Jayden Ballard, WR, Ohio State

    We aren't saying that Jayden Ballard (or anyone) is unmistakably the 10th-fastest college player, period. However, he did match the 10th-fastest max speed for ball-carriers in 2022. Ballard totaled only 10 all-purpose touches last season, yet he reached 21.3 miles per hour on a 72-yard touchdown catch against Toledo.

    T-10. Xzavier Henderson, WR/KR, Florida

    In three seasons, Xzavier Henderson has caught 73 passes for 835 yards and two touchdowns. About half of that production arrived in 2022, a mini-breakout year for Henderson. He topped out at 21.3 mph while scoring a 78-yard touchdown during a loss to Georgia.

    T-10. Jalen McMillan, WR, Washington

    Jalen McMillan secured a featured role for a resurgent Washington program this past season. He snagged a team-high 79 passes for 1,098 yards and a position-best nine touchdowns, helping the Huskies ascend from 4-8 in 2021 to 11-2 last season. McMillan, who passed up the 2023 NFL draft, touched 21.3 mph on an 84-yard score against Portland State.

    9. Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

    Fellow Georgia receiver Arian Smith is absolutely worth a mention, but Ladd McConkey had a higher in-game speed last season. McConkey actually recorded his 21.4 mph max speed on a 70-yard rushing touchdown at Mississippi State. The sophomore paced Georgia wide receivers in receptions (58), yards (762) and scores (seven) last season. He also caught two touchdowns in the national championship game.

8-T5. Lucas, Finn, Nixon and Wright

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    Toledo QB Dequan Finn
    Toledo QB Dequan FinnScott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    8. Jaylin Lucas, RB/KR, Indiana

    While he contributed as a rotational back, Jaylin Lucas primarily held a key role on special teams for Indiana in 2022. He ended the season as the nation's only player with multiple kick-return touchdowns. He reached 21.6 mph on a 93-yard touchdown return at Rutgers.

    7. Dequan Finn, QB, Toledo

    The defending MAC champions have an exciting dual-threat quarterback in Dequan Finn. In two seasons as a starter, he's tallied at least 2,000 passing and 500 rushing yards while accounting for 27-plus touchdowns both years. Finn turned a 3rd-and-21 into a 27-yard touchdown run against Kent State, maxing out at 21.8 mph. He threw six scores in that October victory, too.

    T-5. Jaden Nixon, RB/KR, Oklahoma State

    Similar to Lucas at IU, Jaden Nixon served as a reserve back who returned kicks in 2022. His brightest moment happened in a triumph at Baylor, during which he ripped off a 98-yard touchdown to open the second half. Nixon hit 21.9 mph after breaking a tackle to separate from Baylor's coverage unit.

    T-5. Mike Wright, QB, Mississippi State

    Vanderbilt found itself on the brink of bowl eligibility in 2022 thanks to Mike Wright, who guided the Commodores to four of their five victories. He sprinted 21.9 mph on a 59-yard touchdown scamper en route to helping Vandy snap a six-game losing streak to Kentucky. Wright ended the portal following the season and transferred to Mississippi State.

4. Barion Brown, WR, Kentucky

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    Barion Brown practically wasted no time making his presence known as a true freshman at Kentucky.

    In the 2022 opener opposite Miami (Ohio), he turned on the afterburners for a 100-yard return touchdown to begin the second half. Brown touched 22.0 mph as he raced past Miami's kicker on the sideline.

    Brown was just getting started.

    The first-year standout led Kentucky in both receptions (50) and yards (628) and finished second among wideouts with four touchdowns. He ranked fifth nationally with a 27.5-yard average on 16 kick returns as well.

3. Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ole Miss

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    The roller coaster continues for Kentucky, huh? Opponents loved running fast against the 'Cats, apparently.

    One of the nation's breakout freshmen in 2022, Quinshon Judkins burst through the middle of UK's defense for a 48-yard touchdown run. He peaked at 22.5 mph on the play and ultimately rushed for 106 yards to help Ole Miss squeeze out a 22-19 victory.

    Judkins put together a brilliant debut season for the Rebels, ending the campaign with the seventh-most rushing yards (1,565) and 10th-most rushing scores (16) in the country.

2. Noah Whittington, RB, Oregon

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    After spending two years at Western Kentucky, running back Noah Whittington transferred to Oregon last offseason.

    That decision worked out quite nicely.

    While sharing snaps with Bucky Irving, Whittington rushed for 779 yards, caught 22 passes for 169 yards and totaled six touchdowns. He showed off his electric speed on one of those six scores.

    Whittington knifed past a handful of Arizona defenders for a 55-yard touchdown on a carry that featured a bit of a rarity: He surpassed 22 mph at two separate moments of the scamper. He hit 22.1 mph to separate early, slowed down temporarily and then topped out at 22.6 mph as he crossed the goal line.

1. Monaray Baldwin, WR, Baylor

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    Baylor had a disappointing finish to the 2022 campaign, dropping three straight games to close the regular season and also falling to Air Force in the postseason. However, the flashes of the explosiveness that Monaray Baldwin can provide wound up being one silver lining.

    Oklahoma State certainly found that out the hard way.

    Though the Pokes defeated Baylor 36-25, they watched Baldwin rack up seven catches for 174 yards and two scores. On his second touchdown—a 70-yard score on 4th-and-5—Baldwin hit the sideline and reached 22.8 mph to outrun the entire OSU secondary.

    For the season, Baldwin registered team-best totals of 33 receptions and 565 yards and a co-team-leading mark of four touchdowns.