CFB 24/7  

 

18 for '18: College football's most freakish athletes

Print

NFL.com's 18 for '18 series closes with a look at college football's most freakish athletes. They come in big and small packages over a cross section of every position on the field. They astound their teammates in offseason training, and many -- if not all -- will eventually put on an impressive show at the NFL Scouting Combine. Some are stronger than fast, others faster -- or quicker -- than strong, but they all bring crazy-impressive skills to the gridiron. The list was compiled in consultation with NFL scouts, college coaches and sports information directors.

RANK

18

Breckyn Hager - DE

School: Texas

Hager, a senior, has been putting on weight since the arrival of Tom Herman's staff at Texas. But at 255 pounds, he can still hit 38 inches in the vertical jump. So how many guys at this year's NFL combine jumped 38-plus at 255-plus? Only two: Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, and Ade Aruna, a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings. Hager, whose father Britt played nine seasons in the NFL, also can power-clean 360 pounds.

RANK

17

Darwin Thompson - RB

School: Utah State

Thompson hasn't played a down at the FBS level yet, but if his physical testing is any indication, he'll make his name well-known this fall. A transfer from Northeast Oklahoma A&M College, Thompson is listed at just 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, but stands awfully tall in the weight room. He has a squat max of 560 pounds, and while at NEO, he was captured on social media squatting seven reps at 515. Thompson has also logged a vertical jump of 40 inches, a benchmark signifying elite explosiveness at the NFL combine.

RANK

16

Dawson Knox - TE

School: Ole Miss

Considering Knox was a track standout and a dunk-contest champion in high school, it should come as no surprise that the former prep QB has maintained remarkable athleticism while growing into a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end. Initially a walk-on at Ole Miss, Knox (24 catches, 321 yards last season) should make a major impact in the Rebels' offense this fall. He has been clocked at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has a 37-inch vertical jump. In the weight room, he can squat 550 pounds and clean 375.

RANK

15

Jaelan Austin - WR

School: TCU

The Horned Frogs WR weighs 198 pounds and can squat an incredible 780 pounds. That's the kind of lower-body strength that most linemen can't even muster, and he's also stout in the bench press (450) and power clean (420). Austin has been timed at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, as well, but his role in a talented and deep TCU receiving corps has been limited to 48 catches over three seasons. Austin, with the clever Twitter handle of @HE_GOING_PRO, figures to play a bigger role as a senior this fall.

RANK

14

Jeffery Simmons - DL

School: Mississippi State

The Bulldogs have one of the SEC's up-and-coming stars in Simmons, a former five-star recruit who flashed enough early signs of dominance to earn Freshman All-SEC honors in 2016. He's the guy you stop to watch in the weight room, bench-pressing 450 pounds and squatting 600 after just two years in the MSU strength program. He carries just 15 percent body fat at 300 pounds, has unreal quickness for an interior defensive lineman and can make shaking off a double-team block look easy.

RANK

13

Rodney Anderson - RB

School: Oklahoma

Explosiveness is a key trait in running backs, and the Sooners star has as much of it as any NFL coach could want. Anderson can clean 315 pounds and jump out of a pool -- in waist-deep water -- to a standing position. Need a more conventional measurement for Anderson's explosiveness? How about a 60-inch box jump? Suffice it to say he'll fare just fine in the vertical and broad jumps at the NFL Scouting Combine one day. It's little wonder Anderson averaged 135 yards on the ground over OU's last eight games of 2017.

RANK

12

Drew Lewis - LB

School: Colorado

He weighs just 225 pounds, but Lewis' 355-pound clean is tied for the best on the team and only 10 pounds short of the CU record. He recorded a 10-6 in his most recent broad-jump test, though he turned in a 10-10 last year. That's an elite mark for a linebacker, as the top broad jumps for the position at the NFL combine the last two years have been 10-8 (2017) and 10-11 (2018). He can also squat 515 pounds. Lewis is as productive on the field as he is impressive in training, leading the Buffs with 119 tackles last year, including double-digit stops in seven games.

RANK

11

Neville Gallimore - DT

School: Oklahoma

The Canadian Gallimore comes from another country, but his combination of size and speed seems to come from another planet. He's been clocked as low as 4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash and is currently listed at 316 pounds. You want strength? His squat max is 800 pounds, the most of any squat max listed here. 2018 could be a breakout season for Gallimore -- defensive coordinator Mike Stoops noted in the spring that the fourth-year junior was his most improved player -- as he looks to put nagging injuries of 2017 behind him.

RANK

10

Parris Campbell - WR

School: Ohio State

Even on a roster filled with top-notch talent, Campbell's physical measurables stand above. The Buckeyes receiver can vertical jump 40 inches and broad jump 11-3 -- both results would typically place him very high among all participants at the NFL combine. He possesses blazing speed on a sturdy 208-pound frame, and has been clocked at sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash, per Ohio State. Not surprisingly, he's one of the nation's most prolific kickoff returners with a career average north of 30 yards per return.

RANK

9

Jalin Moore - RB

School: Appalachian State

One of the most accomplished running backs in the country, Moore packs incredible strength and speed into a compact, 5-11, 207-pound frame. He can squat 650, clean 350 and run the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds. His explosiveness (38.5-inch vertical jump, 11-1 broad jump) should rate very high among running backs in next year's draft. The 2016 Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year aims for his third consecutive season of 1,000-plus yards this fall.

RANK

8

Christian Wilkins - DT

School: Clemson

After a surprising decision to return to college for his senior year, Wilkins returns as one of the ACC's most feared defensive linemen. It's no wonder: He can play up and down the line in various roles, and has the athleticism to excel at each. Wilkins (6-3, 309 pounds) can bench press 225 pounds 30 times, an excellent total by NFL combine standards, and runs a 4.89-second 40-yard dash. He can clean and press 265 pounds, and boasts a 3-cone drill time of 7.51 seconds.

RANK

7

Renell Wren - DL

School: Arizona State

Wren, who already has earned an undergraduate degree, returns to ASU this fall as one of the most athletic big men in the game. At 6-foot-6 and 297 pounds, he can run the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds. He's been timed in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.44 seconds, which would have ranked sixth among 2018 NFL combine defensive linemen, right behind first-round picks Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport, who both turned in a 4.41 at a much lighter weight. Wren can broad jump 10 feet and his vertical jump is 34.5 inches. In the weight room, he can squat 600 pounds, and here, he deadlifts 545 pounds for five reps.

RANK

6

Jalen Hurd - WR

School: Baylor

The last we heard from Hurd, he left Butch Jones' crumbling program in the midst of the 2016 season and enrolled at Baylor, where he sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules. Let's catch you up: He's gone from one of the SEC's top running backs, at 6-4 and 240 pounds, to a 229-pound wide receiver at Baylor. That transition alone, at his size, requires rare athletic skills. Hurd can run the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds with eye-popping explosiveness (10-10 broad jump). He's also been clocked at less than 4 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle, something only three players at this year's NFL combine accomplished.

RANK

5

Porter Gustin - LB

School: USC

A four-sport athlete in high school (football, basketball, baseball, track), Gustin matches freakish toughness with freakish athletic skill. He played with two broken hands as a high school star in 2013, and didn't undergo surgery to repair one of them until January 2017, after two full seasons at USC. Now entering his final season as a Trojan, he brings the same intensity to his training as he does to the field. At 255 pounds, the pass-rushing linebacker was timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash prior to last season. With a bench-press max of 475 pounds and a 35-inch vertical jump, he's built like a tank, and as his Twitter background photo indicates, he isn't shy about showing off his physique.

RANK

4

Dexter Lawrence - DT

School: Clemson

The Tigers' massive anchor on the defensive line now checks in at 349 pounds, yet turns in speed and agility testing that draft prospects under 300 pounds would be thrilled with: a 4.95-second 40-yard dash, a 1.70-second 10-yard split, and a 3-cone drill time of 7.67. Then there is his strength and power -- it's just as evident in his play as it is in the Clemson weight room. Lawrence can now rep 225 pounds on the bench press 36 times, a number which would have ranked fourth at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and power clean 345 pounds.

RANK

3

Jabari Zuniga - DE

School: Florida

The Gators' gifted pass rusher, primed for a breakout season this fall, carries just 7.9 percent body fat on a 260-pound frame, per UF, which is roughly what a typical fitness model reportedly carries. His quickness and agility are way beyond typical for a player his size, evidenced by his 4.12-second 20-yard shuttle (the best 20-yard shuttle among edge rushers at this year's combine was a 4.19) and 6.97 3-cone time. Other combine measurables on Zuniga include a 9-11 broad jump and 27 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

RANK

2

Rashan Gary - DE

School: Michigan

College football's junior class is loaded with talent on the defensive line, and Gary sits comfortably among the elite players in the group. In program testing his sophomore year, he was clocked at a jaw-dropping 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash at 280-plus pounds. He also broad jumped 9-6 and turned in a 6.70 time in the 3-cone drill. As a pass rusher, he overwhelms offensive linemen with first-step quickness and power, and he also has the lateral speed to chase down screen passes and stretch plays to the perimeter. As if he needed to be any more athletic, he got himself trimmed down to 275 pounds in the spring.

RANK

1

Ed Oliver - DT

School: Houston

Along with being arguably the best player in college football, Oliver brings downright scary athleticism to the interior of the Cougars' defense. At 290 pounds, his vertical jump has improved to 36 inches, which would have tied him for second with fifth overall pick Bradley Chubb among 2018 NFL combine defensive linemen. He can broad jump 10-1, the same as safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins' first-round pick, performed at the combine. Add in Oliver's freakish weight-room strength (650 squat, 405 bench press, 385 power clean), and the total package is an ultra-rare combination of physical gifts.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop