Who are the SEC’s fastest football players entering the 2011 season?
I think it's pretty safe to say the fastest is Florida’s Jeff Demps, who last month won his second consecutive NCAA indoor national championship in the 60 meters with a school-record 6.53, helping the Gators win back-to-back team national championships.
Demps, a senior running back for the Gators, also won the NCAA outdoor national championship last year with a wind-aided 9.96 in the 100 meters. He set a national high school record in 2008 in the 100 meters with a 10.01 at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
The guy can fly and is easily one of the most feared breakaway threats in the SEC.
After Demps, we did some polling around the league to come up with the fastest guy on each team.
In several cases, there were two or three guys who were pretty close. The other thing to remember is that there’s track speed and then there’s football speed, not to mention the fact that all 40-yard dash times aren’t created equal.
Here’s what we came up with after talking to several people around the league:
Senior receiver Marquis Maze: On a team brimming with speed, Maze is one of those guys nobody catches if he gets a step. With Julio Jones gone, he steps into the No. 1 receiver role next season for the Crimson Tide.
Senior receiver Jarius Wright: A key member of an Arkansas receiving corps that rates up there as one of the best in the country, Wright was timed at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash earlier this year.
Junior running back Onterio McCalebb: He was the Tigers’ marquee home-run threat last season in their national championship march. If you want to see what speed really looks like, go back and watch his 70-yard touchdown run against LSU.
Senior running back Jeff Demps: There was some chatter that Demps might concentrate on training for the 2012 Olympic Games. First-year Florida coach Will Muschamp, however, has been adamant that Demps would be playing football for the Gators in the fall.
Junior cornerback Branden Smith: The Bulldogs have attempted to also utilize Smith’s speed on offense and special teams. He’s not very big (175 pounds), but consistently runs a sub 4.4 in the 40-yard dash.
Sophomore cornerback Jerell Priester: He’s been clocked as fast as 4.29 in the 40-yard dash and gives the Wildcats the kind of speed they’re looking for on defense. Look for Priester to become more of a fixture at cornerback in 2011 after playing a reserve role as a true freshman.
Junior cornerback Morris Claiborne: We all know how fast former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson was. Well, Claiborne is cut from that same cloth and returns in 2011 as one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
Sophomore running back LaDarius Perkins: Dan Mullen has greatly improved the Bulldogs’ speed, and Perkins is one of those guys you’ll probably see move around some in 2011. He can change a game in a hurry with his explosiveness.
Sophomore running back Jeff Scott: He went 83 yards untouched for a touchdown against Auburn last season and gives the Rebels a perfect speed complement in the backfield to the versatile Brandon Bolden.
Junior receiver Bryce Sherman: After coming to South Carolina on a track scholarship, the 5-4, 157-pound Sherman has found a place on the Gamecocks’ football team. He was the primary kickoff returner last season and will also get a shot at receiver in the fall.
Sophomore receiver Justin Hunter: A classic long strider, the 6-4, 182-pound Hunter is also one of the best long jumpers in the SEC and just an exceptional all-around athlete. His football debut last season wasn’t shabby, either -- seven touchdown catches.
Sophomore running back Wesley Tate: Even though he’s carrying 225 pounds, Tate’s speed is what sets him apart from some of the other Vanderbilt skill players. Finally healthy, Tate is poised for a big season in 2011.