There’s always some uproar whenever I put out my annual Freaks list about the guys I left off. The truth is, there are so many amazing athletes that this list could be four times as long as it is. Other guys may be coming off injuries and some others are harder to get concrete information beyond their heights and weights and the notion that they’re great players with some cool on-field highlights. So, with that said, here are our 10 biggest snubs from the 2016 Freaks list.
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Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DL
I’m expecting a breakout season for the sophomore who is stout enough to be a force in the middle of the Tigers’ D-line, but athletic enough to still work off the edge. The 6-4, 310-pound Wilkins, as I wrote a few months back, is a special athlete. The fact that he can do backflips and splits or make effortless catches like he’s a 210-pound receiver despite his massive size probably should’ve earned him a spot on the Freaks list. I probably should’ve bumped someone else off, in retrospect.
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Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, RB
A huge 242-pound back who moves like he’s 200, Hurd was on the Freaks list last year, when he squatted 605 and ran a speedy 4.02 pro agility shuttle. This offseason, he did a one-arm dumbbell bench press with 125 pounds for 19 reps and had a 10-yard sprint time of 1.45 seconds. He also does some stuff like where he jumps on a treadmill going over 23 miles per hour and has the wheels to maintain it. Like Wilkins, I should’ve bumped some other newcomers off the list for Hurd.
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Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, TE
At 6-7, 245, Hodges has some Jimmy Graham-like athleticism. He vertical-jumped 38.5 inches and clocked a 4.46 40, according to the Hokies’ strength staff. However, the thing that wowed the VT staff more than even those numbers was that Hodges did all his conditioning runs with the wide receiver group and still made all their times even though he outweighs most of those guys by 50-plus pounds.
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Jehu Chesson, Michigan, WR
One of the many Wolverines who blossomed last season under Jim Harbaugh, Chesson had 50 catches with nine TD receptions in 2015. The 6-3, 200-pound grad student is also way more dynamic than most people outside of Ann Arbor probably knew. "People don’t realize just how fast Jehu is, said UM tight end Jake Butt. "He’s easily a 4.3 (40) guy. He might even run in the 4.2s in Indy (for next year’s NFL Combine).” As was the case with a few other schools, we already had a representative from that program. I opted for Jabrill Peppers, who though a shade slower in the 40 according to his teammates, is a little heftier, more explosive, and more versatile.
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Derwin James, Florida State, safety
A 6-3, 211-pound sophomore who made a big impact for the Noles last season with 91 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, James is FSU’s next great defensive player. I tried to gather more concrete info to better his case for the Freaks list but was unable to get any offseason testing numbers or anything like that. Yes, I can tell — like every other die-hard college fan — that James is an elite talent, but as I said above, there are many special players out there. Keep in mind, another stud safety who is a beast in the run and can cover slot receivers — LSU’s Jamal Adams — wasn’t on this list either, and I know he’s a 215-pound guy who timed this offseason at 4.46 in the 40, benched 365 and had the second-highest vertical jump on a Tiger team loaded with athletes.
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Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, RB
The bruising, big running back was on the Freaks list last year for some of his amazing weight-room feats, like being able to do 315 on the bench for 12 reps and for power-cleaning 380. His 34.5-inch vertical also is impressive. Ultimately this year, I opted to recognize some special RBs — Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, Elijah Hood and Devante Mays. Another RB I gave lots of consideration to is UMass’ budding star Marquis Young, who weighs 195 but squats 525 and ran a 4.38 40 and broad-jumped 10-foot-8 this offseason.
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Budda Baker, Washington, DB
Chris Petersen’s first blue-chip recruit at Washington isn’t huge, although he has bulked up to 185 after playing last season at 170, the 5-10 Baker told me earlier this spring. He timed at 4.35 in the 40 this offseason. But it’s his endurance that has folks inside the Huskies program in awe. The guy always finishes first in team runs or when the Huskies raced up to the top of the Space Needle — all 800-plus steps after having done a grueling leg workout earlier in the morning. "That's just Budda. He's such a competitor and he can run all day long," Petersen said. "That guy just goes. He does not want to lose."
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Nick Chubb, Georgia, RB
Arguably the most gifted tailback in college football, the 5-10, 220-pound Chubb, a former prep track standout with a 40-inch vertical, is coming off a devastating knee injury that ended his season last fall and is still working to make it back.
Taysom Hill, BYU, QB
Yeah, he’s still playing college football, and the 25-year-old Hill’s a treat to watch. He’s like a faster version of Tim Tebow. The 6-2, 230-pounder who is coming off a Lisfranc injury that ended his season was considered by many in the BYU program as the team’s fastest player. He’s also one of the strongest.
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Dylan Cole, Missouri State, LB
I’ve really tried to keep this to FBS players, but if I’d expanded it to all divisions of college football, Cole would have a strong case to be on it. The 6-1, 240-pound linebacker who finished third the FCS in tackles and led the MVC with 152 is also a workout warrior. Last week he did 36 reps of 225 pounds on the bench to go with the 4.45 40 and 37.5 vertical he produced earlier in the spring. In addition, his coaches said he has loaded up a barbell with 385 pounds and done a set of single leg step-ups onto a box for four reps on each leg. Not bad for a former small-school running back who only had one D-I offer.