I've been compiling my annual Freaks list of college football for over a decade now, spotlighting those guys who are the top workout warriors in the sport or the guys who possess some rare physical abilities that wow folks inside their programs. As always, the list is compiled thanks to the input of many coaches, players and sports information directors around the country.
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Jarrad Davis, Florida, LB and Freddie Tagaloa, Arizona, OT (tie)
Gators LB coach Randy Shannon said Davis has the competitiveness of Jon Vilma, the athleticism of Jon Beason and the football knowledge of Ray Lewis. DC Geoff Collins told me that Davis' "desire, drive and willpower are at the highest levels there is. Every rep he takes at practice or in a walkthrough is at a game-level focus. He's as intense of an individual as I've ever been around and one of the highest character kids as well." The 6-2, 240-pounder has timed in the 40 in the mid-4.5s and done 318 pounds in the clean and jerk. On the field last year, he had 98 tackles and 11 TFLs. Tagaloa, the huge Cal transfer, has great length at 6-8, 320, but also set records at Arizona for his 475-pound bench and doing 38 reps at 225 pounds. "He's a bad man," said Arizona great Scooby Wright. "He also has that first one in/last one out mentality."
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Derrick Willies, Texas Tech, WR
The Red Raiders have replaced one tiny Freak wideout with a big Freak wideout in this JUCO transfer who flashed his explosiveness with this 60-inch box jump, from a sitting position, while wearing a 10-pound vest earlier in the offseason. The 6-3, 225-pound Willies, who began his career at Iowa, led all JUCO receivers last year in yards per catch at 23.6 while at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, grabbing 49 passes for 1,115 yards and 14 touchdowns. In high school, the 21-year-old Illinois native won state track and field titles in the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and 300-meter dash.
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Elijah Hood, North Carolina, RB
He often gets overshadowed in the ACC due to the starpower of Deshaun Watson and Dalvin Cook, but Hood’s a terrific back. He averaged almost seven yards a carry last year and finished the season with 1,463 yards rushing and 17 TDs. In the weight room, the 6-0, 220-pound Hood squats an impressive 635 pounds. He first accomplished that feat in the summer prior to his sophomore season. Once he reached the 635-pound mark, he was forbidden by the strength coaches to do more even though he wanted to continue adding weight. Hood benches 375, power-cleans 338 and has a combined (bench, squat and power clean) mark of more than 1,150, which makes him a member of UNC’s "power team."
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Jordan Williams, ECU, ILB
A former walk-on who won a starting job last season as a sophomore and became the Pirates' second-leading tackler with 81 stops, the 6-foot, 230-pounder has set ECU positional records this spring with a 362-pound power clean and a 38-inch vertical jump. He also broad jumped 10 feet, 4 inches and ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash.
Patrick Morris, TCU, OG
The 6-3, 300-pound junior guard made First-Team Academic All-Big 12 last year and had a 3.6 GPA. He’s the latest strongman to come through the Horned Frogs program. Morris has a 500-pound bench, a 720-pound squat and cleans 450. “We always stop whatever we’re doing when he’s about to lift,” said TCU senior DE Josh Carraway.
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Devante Mays, Utah State, RB
The JUCO transfer from Texas ran for 966 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The 5-11, 228-pounder, who competed in both track and weightlifting in high school, has a 41-inch vertical and has also bench-pressed 425 pounds.
DeAngelo Brown, Louisville, DT
Arguably the strongest man in college football, the 6-1, 310-pound Brown is being counted on to become an even bigger force for the salty Cardinals defense. Last year, he had 40 tackles and 6.5 TFLs and made second-team All-ACC. Despite Brown’s stout frame, he still measured in at only 18 percent body fat, which is very low for a defensive tackle. In the weight room, Brown bench presses 515 pounds, squats 600 and hang cleans 325. More impressively, this offseason he benched 315 pounds 21 times.
Brandon Wilson, Houston, CB
Before we get into his Freak cred, let’s give him props for this: He was the only player in the nation last year with multiple touchdowns in all three phases of the game with two touchdowns each on offense, defense and special teams. The 5-11, 200-pounder with 4.38 speed benches 370 pounds, deadlifts 515, can vertical 40 inches, broad jumps 11-2 and can do pull-ups toting 150 additional pounds of weight.
Zack Ryan, Ball State, LB
A former walk-on, the senior has blossomed into being a very productive player in the MAC. He finished fourth on the Cardinals last season with 67 tackles, that included a season-high 10 against Texas A&M. Ryan’s a beast in the weight room. Despite weighing only 220 pounds, he has benched 455, power cleaned 365 and squats 550. He also has vertical-jumped 36 inches.
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Daron Payne, Alabama, DT
The next dominant presence in the middle of the Tide D-line, the 6-2, 320-pound Payne is a powerhouse and even started a few games as a true freshman in 2015. This offseason as he’s gotten into better condition, he clocked a head-turning 4.93 40. In the weight room, he’s benched pressed 500 pounds, squatted 600 and power-cleaned 365. “He’s done a really good job,” Nick Saban said earlier this spring. "He’s lost a little weight. He’s gotten a little quicker. He can rush the passer a little bit better. He’s had a really good spring.”
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, OLB-safety
A former state 100- and 200-meter champion from New Jersey, the 6-1, 208-pound Peppers has been the ultimate X-factor guy for the Wolverines and could be an even bigger factor in new DC Don Brown’s scheme. "He’s one of our best cover guys,” said Jim Harbaugh. “He’s our best nickel guy by far. He can play linebacker. ... He can rush the passer. He can cover anybody. Put him on the other side of the ball, he’d probably be our best slot receiver. He could give anybody a run for their money as our best tailback. He’s a Jim Thorpe type of guy. … I’d hate to diminish anyone but off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone (in college that I’ve coached) more athletic than Jabrill.” Peppers displayed his blazing speed this spring when he clocked a 4.34 40 last month. "He’s the most explosive human being I’ve ever seen,” said star TE Jake Butt.
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Saquon Barkley, Penn State, RB
Coming off a dazzling freshman season, Barkley has a lot of folks excited to see just how far he can help lead the Nittany Lions. The 5-11, 223-pounder ran for 1,076 yards, breaking a 32-year D.J. Dozier school record for a freshman. Barkley showed how special he can be when he gashed a very talented Ohio State defense for 194 yards at OSU. This offseason, Barkley has also displayed some of that explosiveness, setting a program-record 390-pound power clean. He also had a 600-pound squat, to go with a team-best 4.38 40, a 10-foot-1 broad jump, a 380-pound bench and a 4.00 pro agility time, which would’ve been the quickest by any RB at the NFL Combine in 2016. (The quickest was a 4.12 by Northwestern’s Dan Vitale.)
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Brandon Bryant, Mississippi State, safety
The sophomore’s career in Starkville is off to an impressive start. He made the SEC Academic Honor Roll in his first year and then as a redshirt freshman, he led all rookie DBs in the SEC with 63 tackles. He also forced four turnovers, making three INTs and causing one fumble. Bryant’s a high school teammate of an old Freaks list alum from MSU — Benardrick McKinney — and the 5-11, 216-pounder has earned his own spot here thanks to a blazing 4.24 40, according to Bulldog coaches, to go with a 385 bench, 500-pound squat and a 600-pound deadlift.
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Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, DE
A former JUCO transfer, who had 7.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks in 2015, is ready for a breakout season, according to UCLA coaches. Jim Mora said he doesn't name an MVP of spring ball, but said that if he did, McKinley might've been that guy this year. "He's about 265 now (up from 250 last season)," Mora said of the 6-4 edge rusher. "He was a 10.6 100-meter guy in high school and still has that speed. He can be very dangerous and I'm excited to watch him in the fall."
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Haason Reddick, Temple, DE
A former high school running back whose recruitment was derailed because he had some injuries, Reddick came to Temple in 2012 as a walk-on cornerback and developed into a big-play man. He is now a fifth-year senior and the Owls’ version of Von Miller. The 6-1 Reddick, who like Miller also wears No. 58, has clocked a 4.47 40, broad jumped 10-10, verticalled 36 inches, benches 400-plus and is now weighing in at 235. Last season, he made 12.5 TFLs, had five sacks and five QB hurries. Temple coach Matt Rhule told me Reddick reminded him of Aaron Maybin, who he coached against in the former Penn State star’s final college season. Rhule, a former NFL assistant, says Reddick projects as a 3-4 OLB at the next level. Reddick’s 6.75 3-cone drill this offseason would’ve been the second-fastest by any linebacker at the NFL Combine last February.
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky, WR
A former 0-star recruit, Taylor has blossomed into a superstar. Last season the 6-1, 195-pounder set school records for catches (86), receiving yards (1,467) and TDs (17) that included a 10-catch game against LSU. Coming out of high school in Louisville, Taylor had two other scholarship offers — from Colorado State and UT-Martin. Then WKU-assistant Jeff Brohm vouched for Taylor after being wowed by his toughness and athleticism while watching him play basketball. "He had big, thick legs, could really jump and was explosive and really played good defense," said Brohm. That athleticism has certainly been evident on the field, but also in his spring testing numbers — an 11-5 broad jump, a 39.5-inch vertical and a 4.33 40 — that figure to turn heads when the wideout gets to the NFL Combine next year.
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Adoree' Jackson, USC, CB-WR-KR
The dynamic junior didn’t quite make the U.S. Olympic track team, but the player head coach Clay Helton calls “Superman" did win the Pac-12 long jump title and came in fifth in the NCAA championships. On the field, the 5-11, 185-pounder returned two kicks for touchdowns, caught 27 passes for 414 yards and two more TDs and also made 40 tackles and an INT, although this season Jackson probably won’t have quite as big a role on offense. He says after the season he’d love to play for the USC basketball team, adding that he can be a defensive stopper, “like (Cavs guard Matthew) Dellavedova.” He told me earlier this month he grew up playing soccer and excelled in that and would’ve liked to give that a shot but the Trojans don’t have a team. “I was legit,” he said. “My dad gets on me about that. He says I could’ve (turned pro) when I was 16."
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Leonard Fournette, LSU, RB
Fournette has been every bit as fantastic as he was made out to be when he arrived in Baton Rouge. In just two seasons, he’s moved up to No. 4 all-time on the Tigers all-time rushing list and just set the school single-season record for rushing yards (1,953) to go with 22 TDs. Fournette has leaned down this offseason to 228 pounds. He’s a bit faster, clocking a 4.42 40. He squats 528 pounds and cleans 352. "The most intriguing thing about Leonard is his leadership and work ethic," said Tommy Moffitt, LSU’s long-time strength coach who has also worked at Miami and Tennessee. "Not only is he an incredibly gifted athlete, he works as hard as anyone and handles his responsibilities of a leader with class and dignity. He is a leader on a team full of very hard workers and he’s out front challenging our best runners and lifters every day."
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Devon Allen, Oregon, WR
In 2014, as a redshirt freshman, Allen — a legit world-class sprinter — was one of the Ducks’ most consistent wideouts as they made it to the national title game. He led Oregon in touchdown catches with seven and was third in receiving yards. Allen didn’t get to play in that title game after tearing up his knee and was limited last season, but he showed this summer that all of his speed is back. In fact, Allen qualified for the Summer Olympics in Rio with a 110-meter hurdles time of 13.03 seconds — the second-fastest time in the world this year. Allen also became the first man to win the 110 hurdles at both the NCAA Outdoor Championships and U.S. Olympic Trials in 60 years. After the Olympics, Allen plans to return to the Ducks football team, hoping to be ready for Oregon’s second game of the season.
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Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, DE
The SEC's leader in sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (five) despite seeing an array of double teams, Garrett has more than lived up to his enormous recruiting hype. Listed at 6-5, 262, Garrett’s got the chiseled physique of a DB — a huge DB. The junior has off-the-charts workout numbers. He told me this month he power cleans 440 pounds and bench-presses 485 — staggering when you consider he also has a 40-inch vertical and his fastest 40 time at A&M, he said, is 4.45. “If I could dip into the 4.3s, that’d be great,” he told FOX Sports. It’s also been insane to see someone that big moving that fast. Garrett’s diet is pretty tight. “I just try to stay away from soda and try to stay away from candy and sweets,” he said, adding that he thinks he can bulk up to 270. Scary thought: Garrett doesn’t turn 21 until December.