10 Fastest Players in College Football in 2019

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 26, 2019

10 Fastest Players in College Football in 2019

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    The old adage that speed kills has been proved correct many times.

    A playmaker with transcendent speed can change the course of a game in a matter of seconds. The slightest of creases can lead to a quick score.

    Speed rarely overcomes limited talent, though.

    Running fast in a straight line can lead to a flashbulb moment, but the marriage of pure speed and high-end talent is what creates lengthy highlight reels.

    We're looking at the nation's 10 fastest college football players in 2019 who have already shown their speed on the field. That means Michigan's incoming freshman safety Daxton Hill aren't on this list. But newcomers could quickly make their way into the conversation if all goes well this season, though.

    The 10 players ranked have a recorded speed time such as a 60- or 100-meter dash or a 40-yard time in addition to productive playing time. They're ranked by these times, but cross-comparisons between times means some of the on-field eye test was also used.

10. Demetris Robertson, WR, Georgia

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press

    Top time: 4.35 40-yard dash, 10.77 in the 100 meters, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread

    Georgia wide receiver Demetris Robertson was quite the headlining transfer acquisition by Kirby Smart, even if his first-year was mostly spent on special teams. The 6'0", 190-pounder is optimistic that 2019 will bring more opportunities for him to show off his speed as a playmaker since last year was a transitional period. Robertson is a dangerous threat to create a big play when given the chance.

    His freshman season at California was phenomenal. He averaged 15.3 yards per catch and totaled 767 yards and seven scores with Davis Webb as his quarterback. Webb's downfield throwing presence and Cal's ability to manufacture short receptions with room to run after the catch highlighted Robertson's immense speed.

    The Bulldogs have struggled when trying to open up the offense in big games in recent years despite having skilled receivers. Robertson and Jeremiah Holloman give quarterback Jake Fromm one of the fastest duos in the country. He'll have to take full advantage for the Bulldogs to win the national championship.

9. Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

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    Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

    Top time: 4.34 40-yard dash

    Although the Big 12 isn't known for its defenders, TCU has consistently churned out quality defenses. As mentioned with TCU receiver Jalen Reagor, the program maximizes the talent on the roster and allows individuals to play toward their strengths. On defense, cornerback Jeff Gladney has blossomed into a leader and difference-maker.

    The 6'0", 183-pounder led the conference in passer rating allowed in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. Though he's lanky, Gladney is dangerously fast. His ability to erase angles with his speed is a factor that every quarterback must account for.

    Gladney has not been an interception machine in TCU's 4-2-5 defense, but he plays the ball well within the scheme. He more than doubled his career passes defensed total in 2018 as he logged 12. He's an X-factor who changes how offenses game-plan.

8. John Burt, WR, Texas

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    Rod Aydelotte/Associated Press

    Top time: 6.94 in the 60-meter, 10.72 in the 100

    Injuries have limited Texas receiver John Burt's production since his solid freshman season in 2015, but he's still fast and has been productive when given the chance. Granted a medical redshirt this past season, Burt will be back for his fifth year in 2019. The Longhorns have added significant depth with their most recent recruiting haul, but Burt's experience can pay off as he battles for a bigger role.

    The 6'3", 195-pound speedster has been a big-play magnet despite accumulating modest career numbers. He has averaged 14.6 yards per catch on his 58 receptions and has catches of 72, 84 and 90 yards. The senior should be an attractive option for Tom Herman to utilize if he can stay healthy.

    His path to playing time may depend on impressive the status of 5-star freshmen Bru McCoy and Jordan Whittington. McCoy is waiting to see if he's granted a waiver to play in 2019. Burt could settle in behind Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay as the third option until the younger stars are ready for a bigger role.  

7. Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Top time: 10.27 in the 100 meters in high school, per AL.com's Drew Champlin.

    The second Texas Longhorn on our list of fastest players in the country is receiver Devin Duvernay. The senior has accumulated 70 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns throughout his 32 career games. Like John Burt, he figures to be part of an improved passing Longhorns offense as Sam Ehlinger continues to develop.  

    Duvernay played plenty last year and set a new career high in receptions, yards and touchdowns. There were other missed opportunities, though, as Ehlinger's shoulder injury and lack of chemistry with Duvernay led to several downfield incompletions. His trademark deep post routes still helped create underneath holes for Collin Johnson and Lil'Jordan Humphrey.

    His ability to win one-on-one and maintain his speed advantage while cutting makes him a nightmare in the slot. Whether facing a slot corner or safety, he's capable of continuing his path of acceleration and gaining leverage with ease. That's a unique trait that separates him from stiffer runners.   

6. Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Top time: 4.32 40-yard dash, per ESPN.com

    The owner of the fastest 40-yard dash time at the 2017 Nike The Opening event is Washington running back Salvon Ahmed. The 6'0", 191-pounder was a 4-star prospect throughout his recruiting cycle and has served his first two years as a backup to Myles Gaskin. 

    In 199 career offensive touches, Ahmed has already proved his ability to gain chunks of yards with ease. He's averaged 6.2 yards per touch and amassed 10 touchdowns. With the Huskies having to replace both Jake Browning and Gaskin, Ahmed should have the chance to earn more than the handful of touches he's averaged per game.

    His open-field speed is dazzling and caused by his combination of height and acceleration to top-gear. He can plant to change directions and explode upfield with ease. His production will take a massive leap upward if he proves capable of handling the full-time job.

5. Tavien Feaster, RB, Clemson

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Top time: 6.88 in the 60-meter dash in the Tiger Paw Invitational

    Clemson boasts the deepest set of playmakers in the country heading into 2019. The Tigers are so deep that their backup running back makes the list over their superstar back and fellow speedster Travis Etienne. But Tavien Feaster is a load to handle in his own right.

    At 5'11" and 220 pounds, Feaster can blow both through and around opponents. He's a downhill player with great top-end speed, helping him maintain balance despite contact. The Tigers love to run inside zone and power concepts with him to take advantage of his linear skill set.

    His production has been excellent despite that he's had limited opportunities. He's had just 245 career touches but has a terrific 6.2 yards-per-touch average. In total, his 1,513 yards and 16 touchdowns help highlight his big-play prowess.

4. Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame

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    Jim Young/Associated Press

    Top time: 6.73 in the 60-meter dash

    A true track star, Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride Jr. has also carved out quite the career on the Fighting Irish's defense. The 6'0", 190-pounder set Notre Dame's fastest times at the 2017 ACC Championships, including his 10.50 100-meter run and his 21.38 200-meter run. The first-year starter leapt out to an impressive junior season after being a rotational player early in his career.

    Pride formed one of the better outside cornerback duos in the country with Julian Love. Totaling 47 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defensed, he has a good feel for the position in addition to the speed that allows him to run with any playmaker. His growth as a technician was also notable, as someone with his size and raw speed is unusual at the position.

    2019 will be a huge opportunity for Pride as Love jumped for the NFL. He'll be tasked with leading an inexperienced secondary as the Irish try to return to the College Football Playoff. His development into a potential top cornerback will be a key storyline for the team and playoff race.

3. Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Top time: 4.32 40-yard dash

    Gary Patterson has built up the TCU program by landing speedy difference-makers who may lack the ideal frame that bigger teams desire. He's also an elite developer and utilizes skill sets as well as any coach in the nation. It's a safe bet that the few top-end recruits he lands will be notable contributors.

    Wide receiver Jalen Reagor has been the perfect player for Patterson and the Horned Frogs through his first two seasons. The 5'11", 195-pounder became the youngest TCU receiver to break the 1,000-yard mark last season. His tape clearly shows a speed demon who effortlessly creates space for his quarterback to work with.

    Even as the Horned Frogs rotated through three quarterbacks, Reagor was a consistent problem for defenses. His absurd 17.5 yards-per-catch average in 2017 came with a steadier quarterback situation, highlighting his impact on a per-play basis. With 1,637 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first two seasons, he's established himself as a legitimate 2020 NFL draft prospect and one of the best weapons in the Big 12.  

2. Javaris Davis, CB, Auburn

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Top time: 4.24 40-yard dash

    The cousin of former NFL stars Vontae and Vernon Davis, cornerback Javaris Davis has talented bloodlines in addition to blazingly fast speed. The former Freshman All-American has worked within some talented secondaries at Auburn already, notably playing with Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean. Now it's time for Javaris Davis to step-up as the experienced senior who leads the next generation of young talent on the Tigers' defense.

    Davis has experience both inside and outside, and his speed is a clear advantage that shows in man-to-man snaps. Most slot corners are small in stature, but are quicker-than-fast, making them vulnerable deep or requiring safety help. That's not an issue for Davis, who can hold his own athletically in either role.

    His versatility is a big bonus for the unit. At 5'10” and 187 pounds, he's not the typical big-framed star the defense has produced in the last two NFL drafts. But he's a defensive weapon who has continued to make an impact in each of his three seasons.

1. Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Top time: 10.09 in the 100-meter dash

    The 2017-18 Gatorade National Boys High School Track & Field Athlete of the Year and under-18 world record holder in the 100-meter dash, Auburn playmaker Anthony Schwartz is the fastest player in college football. Fittingly, he was the No. 1 track recruit in the country in 2018 as his potential with track is as high as it is on the gridiron.

    Though thin and lanky at 6'0", 180 pounds, Schwartz was dynamic in his freshman season with the Tigers. Gus Malzahn manufactured both rushing and receiving opportunities for him to help increase the potency of the unit. His speed on jet sweeps led to repeated big plays, including seven total touchdowns.

    The most absurd accomplishment for Schwartz was that he averaged 7.8 yards per rush and 16.2 yards per catch on the year. Though he had just 49 offensive touches, his production points toward a sky-high ceiling and need to force him the ball more often.

    There'll be an opportunity for him to become the team's top target, as receivers Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis have departed the program. That leaves fellow sophomore Seth Williams and Schwartz remaining as the team's returning leading receivers.