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Published: June 29, 2017 at 04:14 p.m.

17 for '17: College football's most freakish athletes

We're taking a look at the most freakish athletes in college football in the latest installment of CFB 24/7's 17 for '17 series. Freak athletes come in all shapes and sizes, but this year's group has a heavy representation on the line of scrimmage -- seven linemen in all -- and these big guys have a lot more than size and strength on their athletic palettes. You can expect all of these players to turn plenty of heads when they eventually make their way to the NFL Scouting Combine. This list was compiled in consultation with NFL scouts, analysts and sports information directors.

17 Photos Total

  • 17. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU 17

    Max Becherer/Associated Press

    17. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

    Guice led the SEC in rushing last season, even though he was backing up 2017 No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette for much of the year and had 5 or fewer carries in 4 games. He’s one of only 4 players in SEC history to have multiple 250-yard rushing games, joining Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker. Guice put his freakish strength on display recently, as his 650-pound squat was captured on video, and he has the speed to blow by defenders, as he showed last season vs. Arkansas. He’s an explosive runner who’s drawn comparisons to LaDainian Tomlinson and Frank Gore.

  • 16. Jordan Williams, LB, East Carolina 16

    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    16. Jordan Williams, LB, East Carolina

    The Pirates combine all their physical testing data into a "power quotient," and Williams sits atop that list, so consider him a freak athlete in a more formal way. At 222 pounds, the senior linebacker can squat 600, and his 374-pound power clean is a program record for linebackers. You want explosiveness? He can vertical jump 36.5 inches and broad jump 10-4. He's also been timed at 4.56 in the 40-yard dash. All that translates nicely to the field, as he led the Pirates in tackles last season.

  • 15. Braden Smith, OT, Auburn 15

    John Reed/USA TODAY Sports

    15. Braden Smith, OT, Auburn

    The Tigers' senior right tackle displays ridiculous strength in the weight room with a 565-pound squat, and a 495-pound bench press that could be higher if the AU strength staff permitted him to load more weight on the bar. The highest-jumping offensive lineman at the NFL Scouting Combine this year recorded a 32-inch vertical jump; Smith can do 33, and his 9-foot-9 broad jump would have led all offensive linemen in Indianapolis this year, as well. All that, and he can run a 4.95 40-yard dash at 6-foot-6, 303 pounds. Said strength coach Ryan Russell: "The most impressive thing to me is his mobility in his ankle(s) and his hips. Normally a guy his size who is that strong and powerful will be stiff and has trouble moving efficiently. Braden's movement efficiency is incredibly smooth and is something you don't see too often with a guy that size."

  • 14. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson 14

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    14. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

    A year ago, Lawrence looked like a seasoned senior in dominating ACC offensive lines as a true freshman. It's no wonder he was difficult for them to handle. At 340 pounds, he's been clocked by the school with a 4.90 40-yard dash. But speed isn't his game -- power is -- and his weight-room prowess is incredible for a player who has at least two years of college left to play. He's already repping 225 pounds on the bench press 31 times, he can squat 550, and power cleans 350.

  • 13. Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama 13

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    13. Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

    The Crimson Tide's long line of rare talents on the defensive line continues with Payne, a massive defensive tackle whose combination of strength and speed is hard to fathom. In spring testing, Payne bench-pressed 545 pounds, squatted 635, and ran a 5.03 40-yard dash at 310 pounds, per the Alabama Media Group. A year earlier, he clocked a 4.93.

  • 12. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston 12

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    12. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

    Oliver took the AAC by storm as a freshman last year, and it's little wonder why given his athletic profile. He can squat 635 pounds and bench press 415. But his explosiveness is even more remarkable for someone who weighs 290 pounds -- he's recorded a 34.5-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump. For perspective, consider that Jets rookie DB Jamal Adams, the No. 6 pick of the draft, turned in just a 31.5-inch vertical at the combine.

  • 11. Tony Brown, DB, Alabama 11

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    11. Tony Brown, DB, Alabama

    No, the Crimson Tide's versatile defensive back hasn't always been a fixture in the starting lineup, but there is no arguing with his remarkable athleticism. He's one of the fastest players in the college game, as evidenced by his qualification for this year's NCAA track championships in the 100-meter dash. But Brown brings a lot more than speed to the table -- he's a rock-solid 200 pounds, and can bench press 400.

  • 10. Brandon Bryant, safety, Mississippi State 10

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    10. Brandon Bryant, safety, Mississippi State

    Bryant is back as a fourth-year junior with some impressive credentials as a freakish athlete. He's consistently run sub-4.3 40-yard dash times in MSU's team testing, making him one of the fastest players in the game. But at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, he's also remarkably strong; he can deadlift 600 pounds and squats 450. He can also vertical jump 35 inches, which would have given him a top-10 finish among safeties at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

  • 9. Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State 9

    Matt York/Associated Press

    9. Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State

    The Sun Devils' senior should turn plenty of heads at next year's NFL Scouting Combine. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 230 pounds, he's recorded a 37-inch vertical jump and a broad jump just a shade under 10 feet. He can squat 513 pounds, and his 20-yard shuttle time (4.03) is more like that of a cornerback than a power rusher. Last year against Texas Tech, on a 75-yard touchdown run that was one of his NCAA record-tying eight scores on the day, Arizona State's GPS technology clocked him at 21.6 mph. He's also known for having a bone-crushing handshake around the ASU football building.

  • 8. Porter Gustin, LB, USC 8

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    8. Porter Gustin, LB, USC

    Gustin is a massive presence in the USC linebacking corps at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, and can push plenty of iron in the weight room. He can squat 575 pounds, bench press 475, and rip off 35 bench-press reps at 225 pounds. USC has clocked him at a 4.5 40-yard dash with a 35-inch vertical jump, and he brings the worth ethic necessary to improve even more. Gustin is known to get into the Trojans athletic facility as early as 5 a.m., and puts in extra weight room time on his own.

  • 7. Darius Anderson, RB, TCU 7

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    7. Darius Anderson, RB, TCU

    A 70-yard run for a touchdown against Texas last year was a fine way for Anderson, then only a freshman, to introduce himself to college football. Based on his athleticism, there should be plenty more where that came from. The Horned Frogs have clocked Anderson (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) with a 4.39 40-yard dash, and he can squat more than triple his body weight (660 pounds). It doesn't get much more freakish than that, and Big 12 defenses should get a much bigger taste of Anderson's strength and speed this fall.

  • 6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State 6

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

    More than a year ago, Barkley tied a school record with a 390-pound power clean shared by former Nittany Lions DL Anthony Zettel. He's since topped that mark with a 405-pound power clean, and he's maxed on the squat rack at 600 pounds. Penn State has also clocked him at least twice with sub-4.4 40-yard dash times, including a 4.33. Throw in a 38-inch vertical jump and a 4.00 time in the 20-yard shuttle, and you have an elite athlete primed for a huge junior season.

  • 5. Derwin James, S, FSU 5

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    5. Derwin James, S, FSU

    Described as a "freak of nature" by FSU DB Nate Andrews, James brings a tremendous combination of strength, agility and speed to the FSU secondary. He can bench press more than 400 pounds, has remarkable leaping ability, and doesn't even need two hands to catch a football. As for his ability to blitz, former FSU tackle Roderick Johnson, now with the Cleveland Browns, marveled at his ability to rush the passer at just 213 pounds: "... he can turn from speed into power just like a regular defensive end." James has recovered from a knee injury suffered early last season, and is primed to show the form that made him one of college football's most dynamic freshmen in 2015.

  • 4. Vita Vea, DT, Washington 4

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    4. Vita Vea, DT, Washington

    The Huskies' mountainous anchor for its defensive front, at 344 pounds, has remarkable movement skills. According to the Seattle Times, he's been clocked at a 4.8 40-yard dash. That's a little hard to fathom for a player his size -- he would no doubt be the talk of the NFL Scouting Combine if he were to pull that off at the event -- but there is no denying his athleticism. He can vertical jump 33 inches, and was a 260-pound wildcat quarterback in high school.

  • 3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville 3

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

    You really don't need numbers to know the Cardinals' quarterback has freakish athletic skills -- you only need a pair of eyes and a television on fall Saturdays. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner made easy work of ACC defenses last year with a combination of speed and agility that reminds many of Mike Vick. But for those who like their freak athletes verified by measurables, Jackson carried his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame 40 yards in 4.34 seconds in the spring, and he's only getting faster (he ran 4.42 a year earlier). Then there is his arm strength; it's also plain enough to see on Saturdays, but he's said to be able to launch the ball 85-95 yards, depending upon whom you ask and what you make of this video testament.

  • 2. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan 2

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    2. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

    There's a reason Gary was a five-star recruit at the high school level; his athleticism is plenty freakish for a big man, and he showed it off during Michigan's spring testing this year. At 6-foot-5, 287 pounds, Gary turned in a 4.57 40-yard dash -- simply ridiculous for a man of his size -- and a 31-inch vertical jump. He also ran a 6.70 time in the 3-cone drill, which would have led all defensive linemen at this year's NFL Scouting Combine. He made 27 tackles, five for losses, as a freshman last year. But those are modest numbers for a player of Gary's potential, and he could double that production as early as this fall. Yes, the Michigan coaching staff is expecting big things from him.

  • 1. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson 1

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    1. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

    At 310 pounds, Wilkins' athleticism is difficult to fathom. He's been clocked at 4.80 in the 40-yard dash, with a 10-yard split time of 1.62. That's ridiculously fast for a player his size, and he has plenty of strength to go with it; he can bench press 225 pounds for 31 reps. You want explosiveness? He can broad jump 9 feet. Then, there is his flexibility, which he put on startling display after Clemson's national title win over Alabama.

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