This is the first of a two-part series on the fastest players in college football.
Tuesday: Jeremy Maclin wants a match race
Thursday: The fastest player ever
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A college football match race. Good idea, right? There's not much else happening on campus this time of year that doesn't involve lifting, bar fights and summer school.
The four-letter could beat us over the head with it (or as other more rational TV professionals call it, "promotion"). Advertisers would love new, different programming in the dead of summer.
|10 FASTEST PLAYERS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL (in alphabetical order)|
|Jahvid Best, RB, Cal, sophomore: Used sparingly as a freshman, Best once ran a 10.31 100 in high school. Missed the track season (and spring practice) recovering from a hip injury.|
|Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia, sophomore: A 10.4 (100) and 21.3 (200) sprinter in high school, Devine averaged 8.6 yards per rush as a freshman.|
|Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson, junior: Reportedly ran a 4.126 in prep school. Called the fastest player ever at Fork Union Military Academy, a program that has produced 87 NFL draftees and two Heisman winners.|
|Michael Ray Garvin, DB, Florida State, senior: Set the school record for kick return yardage in '07. Member of FSU's 4x100 national champion relay team last year.|
|Percy Harvin, WR, Florida, junior: Think where Florida's running game would be without this wide receiver who runs a 4.28 40?|
|Trindon Holliday, RB/WR/KR, LSU, junior: Once ran a 4.27 40 in basketball shoes at an LSU camp. Since then he has become an elite track star and budding football prospect.|
|Jeremy Maclin, WR/KR, Missouri, sophomore: Set the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards by a freshman in 2007.|
|Taylor Mays, S, USC, junior: Two-time state of Washington prep sprint champ. Recently ran a 4.25 40 at USC.|
|Joe McKnight, RB, USC, sophomore: Former No. 1 recruit in the country, McKnight was a YouTube sensation who was compared to Reggie Bush. Ran a 10.4 100 in high school.|
|C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson, junior: Seventeen career touchdowns as a standout tailback. Blazing sprinter with career bests of 6.74 (60), 10.41 (100) and 21.47 (200).|
|Ten others to consider: Bryan Evans, CB, Georgia; Jamere Holland, WR, Oregon; Deon Murphy, WR/PR, Kansas State; Louis Murphy, Florida; Travon Patterson, WR, USC; Chris Rainey, Florida; Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State; Brandon Saine, RB, Ohio State; Marcus Thigpen, RB, Indiana; Pat White, QB, West Virginia.|
Happens all the time anyway when players are horsing around. "Line up, fool, and let's run one. See that cone? First one to it goes to the head of the training table line."
"Yeah, I've heard of him," said Missouri's Jeremy Maclin of his opponent in the dream match race that probably will never take place. "We get compared a lot. I've heard people say I'm faster, I've heard people say he's faster. I know he's really fast.
"I think it would be fun to go (race) at the same time, two guys with speed like that."
And Trindon Holliday has heard of Maclin. The LSU track star/receiver/running back/returner said so in December when his team was getting ready to win another national championship.
You might have deduced, then, the reason for a match race: Two Tigers from top programs at the top of their game. The pair might consist of the two fastest players in college football. Might. That's the problem. How do we know? Factor in football equipment; the way they're used; their positions; their height. Holliday is listed at 5-feet-6. Maclin, a redshirt sophomore, has more classic receiver size at 6-1.
Holliday, a complimentary player in football, is a borderline Olympic class sprinter for the nation's No. 1 track squad. Maclin doesn't run track but was an All-American for Missouri on the gridiron, which reached No. 1 for the first time in 47 years.
One thing is still certain: Speed rules the game more than spread-option offenses, multi-million dollar coaches or the suddenly gun-happy culture developing among players.
Every Friday during spring practice, Missouri players ran 40s. Maclin's best was 4.31 seconds without, he says, a decent start each time. He ran in the 4.3s every time.
"(But) I'm definitely 4.27," he said.
Of course, a match race would be nothing but eye candy. How do you compare Holliday or Maclin to Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller, both sprint/football stars at Clemson? Spiller (running back) and Ford (receiver) at least touch the ball.
How do you evaluate Southern California safety Taylor Mays or Florida State defensive back Michael Ray Garvin?
Garvin was part of FSU's 4x100 national championship relay team last year. According to USC, Mays, a former two-time state high school sprint champ in Washington, ran a 4.25-second 40. He's also 6-3, 230 pounds. That's the same 40 time that Chris Johnson posted in 2006. Who is Chris Johnson? Mostly, he flew under the radar at East Carolina while leading the country in all-purpose yards last season. Johnson ran that 4.25 at the program's NFL timing day.
In February, Johnson ran a 4.24 at the NFL combine. Not surprisingly, he was drafted in the first round in April by Tennessee.
"I feel like I can get better," said Maclin, who also sees an NFL future looming. "I have a tendency to start gliding. When I'm running and I know I'm beating everybody, I have a tendency to start gliding."
Gliding? It sure didn't look like it when Maclin became a breakout star (and 2008 Heisman candidate) piling up 2,776 all-purpose yards, the most ever by a freshman and the fifth-highest total in NCAA history. He led Missouri in receiving yards (1,055) and was the only player in the country to score rushing, receiving, punt-return and kick-return touchdowns. All that while playing with 2007 Heisman finalist Chase Daniel and two future NFL Draft choices in the nation's No. 5 offense.
"I fell in love with what Missouri was doing on offense," he said.
That was after Oklahoma had fallen in love with him. Maclin originally committed to the Sooners out of Kirkwood (Mo.) High School. To hear the player tell it, though, OU didn't follow up -- enough. Living in St. Louis, he was swayed to Missouri.
Maclin's youth football coach Jeff Parres felt pity for the kid and eventually adopted him. Jeremy was the youngest of three sons of Cleo Maclin. Fighting what the New York Times called a lifetime of "neglect and emotional abuse" as a result of his mother, Jeremy flourished in Parres' family.
After arriving in Columbia, stardom was delayed when Maclin injured his knee during a seven-on-seven drill before his freshman season.
"I'm really impressed with him," Daniel said. "He got hurt and came back faster than he was as a true freshman."
So what's next for Maclin? Defenses, now more aware, will continue game planning against him. It started at the end of last season. Oklahoma bracketed him in the Big 12 championship game, using a linebacker on short routes who then released him deep to a defensive back. Maclin did have 204 all-purpose yards but was kept out of the end zone.
|Darren McFadden and Maclin would be a good match, both claim 4.27 in the 40. (US Presswire)|
"I had a feeling I could be a guy who could be counted for the big play ...," Maclin said. "I think I did just that, I stepped up. I exceeded a lot of people's expectations but I still feel like I've got a lot to prove."
Opponents respect him; the next chore might be getting NCAA '09 to notice. It was hard to find one of the fastest players in the game on the popular video game last season. Maclin says he was buried on the depth chart as No. 80 (his real-life number is 9).
The player coached his avatar in "career" mode. That part of the game allows a player to develop from a high school recruit to (possible) NFL prospect.
"I've eventually developed to be one of the premier receivers and I go to the NFL," the human Maclin said of the pixilated Maclin. "I think my final rating was 95 (out of 100) -- All-American, Heisman candidate."
That's a video game pretty much mimicking real life.
Now all that's left is that match race.