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Published: May 24, 2017 at 05:21 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2017 at 05:45 p.m.

17 for '17: College football's fastest players

A year ago, CFB 24/7's list of college football's fastest players highlighted John Ross III, who went on to break the NFLCombine speed record with a 4.22 40-yard dash clocking in March. We present CFB's 2017 crop of speed merchants just a few days before one of America's greatest tests of speed, Sunday's running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Of course, the only way to be certain of CFB's fastest player would be to line them up all at once for a footrace. Absent that, claims of the distinction are claims alone. A cross-section of standards from the 40–yard dash to various track events cloud comparisons, and of course, some speedsters can carry the weight of a helmet and shoulder pads -- when it matters most -- better than others. With that out of the way, CFB 24/7 tried to find the strongest cases for speed in the game to compile 17 of the swiftest players returning this fall:

17 Photos Total

  • 17. Tavien Feaster, RB, Clemson 17

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    17. Tavien Feaster, RB, Clemson

    With last year's wave of Clemson offensive skill talent now off to the NFL, excitement is high for Feaster as a future big-play threat. In high school, he broke the South Carolina state record for the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.11 seconds, and in February, he notched a college-best time of 6.88 in the 60-yard dash at Clemson's Tiger Paw Indoor meet. As Wayne Gallman's backup last year, he rushed 37 times for 234 yards.

  • 16. John Burt, WR, Texas 16

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    16. John Burt, WR, Texas

    Burt is an outstanding 110-meter hurdler for the Texas track squad, and his time of 13.91 qualified him for the NCAA Championships in 2016. Burt took the 2017 track season off to focus on spring football, but rejoined the team when spring drills ended. In just his second meet back with the team, he clocked a 13.90 to finish third at the Big 12 Championships. Last football season he caught 18 passes for 201 yards for the Longhorns.

  • 15. Tony Brown, DB, Alabama 15

    Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

    15. Tony Brown, DB, Alabama

    The Crimson Tide's versatile defensive back returns to this list for the third consecutive year, and when you're the fastest player wearing crimson among Nick Saban's vast collection of four- and five-star recruits, it's little wonder why. Brown has routinely clocked in the 4.3s in the 40-yard dash, most recently with a 4.38 to lead the Tide's spring testing, but it's on the track where he really set himself apart. He was a first-team All-America 100-meter hurdler last year, and qualified for the NCAA Championships with a time of 13.52.

  • 14. Rashard Fant, CB, Indiana 14

    Sam Riche/Associated Press

    14. Rashard Fant, CB, Indiana

    Few listed here translate speed to the field as effectively as Fant; he is the NCAA's active career leader in pass breakups with 44 (17 last season). Fant has been clocked at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, a time that would have ranked fourth at his position at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, ahead of the likes of 2017 first-round picks Adoree' Jackson and Marlon Humphrey.

  • 13. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville 13

    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Pre

    13. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

    If you nip Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in the 40-yard dash, suffice it to say you can fly. Alexander did just that in Louisville's spring testing to lead all Cardinals with a time of 4.32 seconds. He led the Cardinals last year in interceptions (five), pass breakups (nine), and averaged a robust 10.3 yards on punt returns.

  • 12. Demetris Robertson, WR, Cal 12

    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    12. Demetris Robertson, WR, Cal

    At Nike's The Opening football camp in 2015, Robertson ran a 4.34 40-yard dash that helped make him a five-star recruit. Along with being one of the Pac-12's most dynamic young receivers, he's also joined the Cal track squad, posted a 10.77 time in the 100-meter dash in April and competes on the Bears' 4x100 relay team as well. Last fall, his 50 catches and 767 yards broke Cal records held by NFL standouts Keenan Allen and DeSean Jackson, respectively.

  • 11. Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame 11

    Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

    11. Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame

    Pride hasn't made a big splash on the football field (yet), but he's done plenty with the Fighting Irish track squad with times of 6.77 (60 meters), 10.60 (100 meters) and 21.36 (200 meters), all clocked at the college level. Earlier this month, he turned in a wind-aided 10.47 100 meters at the ACC Outdoor Championships. He appeared in eight games with three starts last year, but he'll be counted on for a bigger role this fall.

  • 10. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State 10

    Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

    10. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

    With a 4.31 40-yard dash, Ward holds the distinction as the Buckeyes' fastest player. Considering the recruits Urban Meyer gathers in Columbus, that's no small feat. He's next up in OSU's line of NFL-caliber cornerbacks, and will play a major role for the Buckeyes this fall. In high school, he notched a 10.49 time in the 100, and won a state title in the 200 with a 21.65.

  • 9. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami 9

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    9. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami

    The Hurricanes are always laden with speed, so when you're the fastest player at The U, it means something. Richards clocked a blistering 4.31 40-yard dash in the program's team testing. He put that speed to good use last year in averaging 19.1 yards per catch (49-934) and ranks as the No. 29 player in the nation, per NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter.

  • 8. Brandon Bryant, S, Mississippi State 8

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Pres

    8. Brandon Bryant, S, Mississippi State

    It's fitting that Bryant wears No. 1, because he'd finish No. 1 in a race with the rest of the Bulldogs. The fourth-year junior has been clocked at less than 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash not once, not twice, but three times in team testing, most recently with a 4.29 recorded just two weeks ago. He's timed as low as 4.24 earlier in his career.

  • 7. Javaris Davis, CB, Auburn 7

    Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports

    7. Javaris Davis, CB, Auburn

    Davis made a big contribution to the Tigers' defense as a redshirt freshman last year, and his speed is what helped make it happen. He led the team in spring testing with a 4.24 40-yard dash, and no, it wasn't hand-timed. Auburn uses the Zybek timing system, just as the NFL Scouting Combine does. He also has NFL bloodlines as a cousin of brothers Vontae and Vernon Davis.

  • 6. Tony Brooks-James, RB, Oregon 6

    Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    6. Tony Brooks-James, RB, Oregon

    Brooks-James emerged last year as an effective rusher for the Ducks when Royce Freeman's season was slowed by injuries, and ended up with 771 yards on 101 carries for a whopping 7.7-yard average. He did it with speed good enough to clock personal bests of 10.50 in the 100 meters and 6.71 in the 60 as a freshman for the Ducks.

  • 5. Dominic Davis, RB, USC 5

    Johnny Vy/Associated Press

    5. Dominic Davis, RB, USC

    The Trojans' backup rusher set a USC freshman indoor record with a 6.78 60-meter time, and has posted personal bests of 10.47 in the 100 and 21.48 in the 200. He's on the small side for a running back (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) but he still managed 5.7 yards per carry (23 for 132). His Instagram handle, naturally, is @domo_fast.

  • 4. Nyheim Hines, WR, North Carolina State 4

    Nick Lisi/Associated Press

    4. Nyheim Hines, WR, North Carolina State

    Hines makes his second appearance on our list of the game's fastest players, returning to the Wolfpack this fall as a key member of the receiving corps. He ran his best 100-meter dash time of 10.49 in April at the Virginia Challenge meet, and clocked a 6.71 60 at the ACC Indoor Championships in February. His speed translates to special teams, as well. Hines' 24.4-yard kickoff return average ranked fourth in the league, and he broke one 100 yards for a score in the Independence Bowl against Vanderbilt.

  • 3. Isaiah Brandt-Sims, WR, Stanford 3

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated P

    3. Isaiah Brandt-Sims, WR, Stanford

    No, he's not a household name on the football field, but they know him well around the Pac-12 as a track standout. He's clocked a personal-best 10.53 in the 100-meter dash (10.48 wind-aided), and a 60-meter indoor time of 6.64. He's also won a Pac-12 title as part of Stanford's 4x400 relay team, which holds the indoor and outdoor school record in the event.

  • 2. Tyrell Johnson, WR, Arizona 2

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2. Tyrell Johnson, WR, Arizona

    At 5-foot-7 and 164 pounds, Johnson is probably the smallest guy on the field on Saturdays, but probably the fastest as well. As a member of the Wildcats track squad, he clocked a wind-aided 10.41 100-meter dash in April at the Horned Frog Invitational. He was timed at 4.24 in the 40-yard dash on the football team's timing day this spring. He was used sparingly as a rusher and receiver last fall (28 carries, 5 catches), and returns this fall for his senior year.

  • 1. Donte Jackson, CB, LSU 1

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Pre

    1. Donte Jackson, CB, LSU

    The sum of Jackson's speed credentials -- from the LSU track team, to the football-standard 40-yard dash, to his proven on-field explosiveness -- makes for a compelling argument as the game's fastest player. Jackson, who steps in for Tre'Davious White as LSU's top cornerback this fall, clocked a personal-best 6.63 in the 60-meter dash in the 2016 SEC Indoor Championships. His best time in the 100-meter dash is a blistering 10.22, recorded just last month at the SEC Relays. In the 40-yard dash, he's been timed at 4.24, and LSU track coach Dennis Shaver has compared him to another former Tigers blazer, Trindon Holliday. New York Jets first-round pick Jamal Adams, a former teammate, has described Jackson's speed as "God-given."

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