Freaks Week: College football’s Top 25 ‘Freaks’ for 2015

For more than a decade, we’ve been spotlighting the biggest "Freaks" in college football — 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. Our Top 25 countdown comes thanks to the input of many coaches, players and sports information directors around the country. Here’s our Top 25 for 2015:

25. (tie) Ian Anderson, Ball State, OT: Not the lead singer for Jethro Tull, but this one is as strong as any player in the MAC. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder from North Carolina came in as a defensive lineman as part of Pete Lembo’s first class at BSU. Anderson has blossomed thanks in large part to his dogged work in the weight room. He’s a 500-pound bencher, a 605-pound squatter, and he power cleans 385. He also has 24 percent body fat — not too bad for an O-lineman.

25. (tie) Jon Cunningham, Kent State, NT: A former Ohio state high school wrestling champ, the 5-foot-11 1/2, 295-pound sophomore didn’t make this list solely for this video displaying some intensity that could make WWE execs giddy. Instead, it’s thanks to his 700-pound squat, 350-pound hang clean and because the guy isn’t even 6 feet tall but has a 6-7.25 wing span.

24. Will Geary, Kansas State, NT: Another decorated high school wrestler, Geary won two consecutive state wrestling titles in the 285-pound class, and also was the 2013 national champion for the National High School Coaches Association. This guy arrived at K-State as a walk-on and immediately created a buzz inside the program on the scout team, where he more than held his own every day against the Wildcats’ All-American center, B.J. Finney. Word is, no one — including Finney — could handle the 6 foot, 297-pound Geary. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, he won a starting job and led all Wildcat DTs with 30 tackles. The 20-year-old Geary already cleans 392 pounds to go with a 425 bench and can squat 640 (going to parallel.)

23. Carl Lawson, Auburn, DE: A freshman All-American in 2013 after making 7.5 TFLs for the Tigers (he also made SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll), Lawson missed the 2014 season because of an ACL tear. Teammates say the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder has regained all of his explosiveness and then some. His time of 1.57 for 10 yards would’ve turned heads if he’d have done it at the NFL Combine. (Anything below 1.60 is flying for a D-lineman.) Lawson also is vertical-jumping 36 inches, and he benches 450.

22. Connor McGovern, Mizzou, LT: The son of a bodybuilder from North Dakota, McGovern tore a pec while trying to bench 515 earlier in his career at Mizzou. McGovern is 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, and squatted 690 pounds for five reps. He’s done 40 reps on the bench with 225 pounds. He’s vertical-jumped 34 inches and been timed in the 40 at 4.9. McGovern also can do 18 pull-ups despite weighing more than 300 pounds.

21. Shane Williams-Rhodes, Boise State, WR: The smallest man on our list. The Texan is only 5-foot-6, 173 pounds, but he plays very, very big. He’s already fifth on BSU’s all-time receptions list with 171. Williams-Rhodes makes up for his limited size with some serious explosiveness. His vertical jump is 37 inches; he’s clocked a 4.46 40, and his pro agility shuttle is 3.95 (which would’ve been the fourth-fastest of all the players at the NFL Combine last year). However, the thing that has folks inside the Broncos program saying he’s a Freak is when he back-squatted 500 pounds for a set of three reps. 

20. Ryan Norton, Clemson, C: The Tigers starting center turned heads recently when a video of him bench-pressing 640 pounds (with a little bit of help from his spotter) went online. Norton also did that super-heavy bench with the aid of a “shoulder-saver” as Tiger strength coach Joey Batson explained, which helps the linemen work on their six- to eight-inch punch without much risk of injury. The 290-pound Norton, who arrived at Clemson weighing around 240, is a 500-pound bencher, the coach said, adding Norton also has put up 225 as many as 37 times.

19. Tony Brown, Alabama, CB: The 20-year-old sophomore doesn’t just have some of the best hairstyles in college football (see below); he’s also one of the fastest hurdlers in the country. Before arriving in Tuscaloosa, Brown ran a personal best of 13.38 in the 110 hurdles at the Texas Relays in 2013, the top time in the country that year. In January, Brown won the 60-meter hurdles title at the Vanderbilt Invitational with a time of 7.89 seconds. A few months back, the 6-foot, 195-pounder earned First Team All-America status by running the lead leg for the Tide’s 4×100-meter relay team that finished eighth at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Oregon.

Tony Brown has some of the best hairstyles in CFB.

Another example of a fantastic Tony Brown look.

18. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, RB: A former blue-chip recruit who had a terrific freshman debut for the Vols, expect Hurd to really, really take off this fall. The 6-3 ball-carrier has muscled up to 242 pounds, but Vols coach Butch Jones said Hurd still moves — and looks — like he’s only 220. Hurd squats 605 pounds, broad-jumps 10 feet, 2 inches, and clocked a blazing 4.02 in the pro agility shuttle. The only RB at the NFL Combine who clocked a faster time was former Nebraska star Ameer Abdullah, a 205-pound back.

17. Kemoko Turay, Rutgers, DE: As a freshman last season, the 6-6, 240-pound Turay had 7.5 sacks and blocked three kicks. Not bad for a guy who played only one season of varsity high school football. According to RU head coach Kyle Flood, Turay vertical-jumps 40 inches, runs the 40 in the 4.6 range and has gained 30 pounds since arriving at Rutgers.

16. Kyle Friend, Temple, C: One of several holdovers from last year’s Freaks list, the 6-2, 305-pound senior continues to wow folks inside the Owls program. This offseason, Friend — a guy who has started 33 consecutive games — benched 225 pounds 46 times and also ran the 40 in 4.95 seconds.

"Kyle is the strongest player I’ve ever coached," said Temple head coach Matt Rhule, a former NFL assistant.

"He is also the best combination of strength and speed I’ve ever coached."

On top of that, Friend has a 3.35 GPA in business management.

No. 15: Christian Westerman, ASU, OG: A former five-star recruit who landed at Auburn, Westerman came back home to ASU and settled in as one of the best guards in the Pac-12. The 6-4, 301-pounder is also one of the strongest men in college football. Check out the video of the 22-year-old Westerman banging out 20 reps on the bench with 315 pounds last month. A year ago, Westerman also bench pressed 225 pounds a team-best 41 times.

No. 14: Montese Overton, ECU, OLB: Ruffin McNeill has been a college coach for 30 years, working everywhere from Clemson to ECU to Fresno State to Texas Tech. But he said he’s been around one only linebacker who was faster than the 6-3, 221-pound Overton, and that was when he coached at Appalachian State and had Dexter Coakley. But McNeill said Overton is close. 

"He’s a 4.3 guy when he wakes up in the morning, and he’s a 4.3 guy in the fourth quarter," McNeill said of Overton, whom ECU’s strength coach clocked at 4.31 in the 40. Overton’s 3.97 shuttle time would’ve topped the fastest turned in by any linebacker at the NFL Combine in 2015.


No. 13: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, RB: The hulking 5-10, 230-pounder not only set an FBS record with 427 rushing yards against Kansas, he muscled his way to 1,713 yards and 21 TDs as part of spectacular freshman season. Teammates marvel at Perine’s strength, as detailed in this story from SoonerSports that includes the one about how the big back did 10 sets of 10 reps of 225. "He’s probably the strongest person on the team, and that includes the offensive linemen," said center Ty Darlington.

Perine benches 440 and does 315 for 12 reps. He also power cleans 380, broad-jumps 10-0 and vertical-jumps 34.5 inches.

No. 12: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, LB: The Freakiest video of Smith isn’t of the 241-pounder in the weight room, but rather this one, where he’s in the middle of the field, sheds a blocker and bursts to snatch down a running back. That’s the kind of explosiveness that has scouts comparing him to Patrick Willis.

Smith vertical-jumps 36 inches, benches 400 (doing 225 for 26 reps), broad-jumps 10-2 and has a short shuttle time (4.03), just a shade behind Overton. Smith is also ridiculously lean. The ND staff recently measured his body fat at 4 percent. Oh, and there’s one other impressive number about him. 

He just turned 20 in June.

11: LaQuan McGowan, Baylor, TE: The mammoth senior caught a TD in the Cotton Bowl last year against Michigan State, sending McGowan off to cult hero status. Check out how easily McGowan hauls in these one-hand grabs.

"He’s got the coordination of a basketball player," Baylor strength coach Kaz Kazadi said.

Kazadi adds that the 6-7 McGowan has "slimmed down to 410," and that this offseason they timed the big man at 5.32 seconds in the 40. McGowan also is a 500-pound bencher, but the thing that has really wowed Kazadi is the super-sized tight end’s endurance and how he held up at their most intense offseason Tuesday workouts.

"He did not miss a rep on one of our monster workouts," Kazadi said. "He gets a lot of credit for being a huge human being, but what he’s done conditioning-wise to show his teammates how serious he was about this is the most impressive thing I’ve seen in a long time."

10. Uso Olive, Wyoming, NT: Cowboys coach Craig Bohl spent a lot of years at Nebraska. He played for the Huskers, served as a graduate assistant with the team and later spent a decade as an assistant in Lincoln. He says he’s not seen anyone do some of the things Olive can do in the weight room. Wyoming’s strength coach Zach Duval, also a former Huskers staffer, said the 5-11, 310-pound Olive has done five reps on the bench with 555 pounds with one two-by-four on his chest (to prevent shoulder injury). In addition, Olive has squatted 876 for two reps “with no problems and he did it with no wraps.” Duval also said Olive can bench 225 over 40 times “easily.” The video below shows Olive squatting 765 for a double.

9. Dadi Nicolas, Va. Tech, DE: One of the stars of Bud Foster’s nasty defense, the 6-3, 236-pound speed rusher had a team-leading 18.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2014. The Florida native clocked a blistering 4.40 in the 40 this offseason. His 10-yard split of 1.61 also is terrific, as is his vertical jump of 41 inches. 

8. KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame, CB: The second Fighting Irish player to crack the Top 25 Freaks list, Russell showed off some of his athleticism this offseason with this incredible vault atop six boxes. The 5-11, 196-pound senior also has proven to be a standout DB for Notre Dame. He should put on quite a show after his college career when he gets to the NFL combine. In South Bend, he’s already broad-jumped 11-2 1/2 to go with his 40-inch vert. He’s also extremely strong for his size, squatting 500 pounds, benching 350 and doing 20 reps of 225 — only two corners did more at the Combine in the past two years.

7. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, DL: The former 5-star recruit has been an anchor of one of the SEC’s best defenses (and the nation’s No. 1 ranked unit in scoring defense in 2014.) The 6-4, 290-pound junior isn’t built like any other DT. He’s got only 10 percent body fat. He’s clocked a 4.7 in the 40, vertical-jumped 34 inches and broad-jumped 9-8 to go with a 440-pound bench and 650-pound squat. 

“Unbelievable combination of size, speed, and motor,” said strength coach Paul Jackson. "Only knows one speed. Attacks every workout and plays every play as hard as anyone I have seen.”

6. Jalen Ramsey, FSU, DB: A 6-1, 202-pound junior, Ramsey isn’t just one of college football’s best players, he’s also the ACC’s long-jump king, winning titles this past year at the outdoor and indoor championships. He ran the first leg of the 4×100 relay for the Noles’ ACC outdoor championship team and placed fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a personal-best of 26-1.75 in the long jump. On the field last year, Ramsey was everywhere for the FSU D, making 9.5 TFLs, 12 pass break-ups, two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles.

5. Adoree’ Jackson, USC, CB/WR/KR: As a freshman, Jackson won the Pac-12 long-jump title. He also came in fourth in the 100 meters and ran the anchor on the Trojans’ 4×100 team. In the process, Jackson became the first USC football letterman to earn track All-America honors in an individual event since Sultan McCullough in 2000. While discussing UConn’s Byron Jones soaring 12 feet, 3 inches at the Combine last February, setting a world record, the 5-11, 185-pound Jackson said when it’s his turn at the Combine, he’s planning on going 12-feet plus: "It’s all about technique," he said. "I think it’s realistic for me."

Read more about Jackson here.


4. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, WR: The fastest man in college football, the 6-1, 183-pound senior also was an honorable mention All Big 12 wideout in 2014. He caught 41 passes for 753 yards and proved to be quite the big-game player, rolling up consecutive 100-yard receiving games against Oklahoma and Baylor. He also threw a 31-yard touchdown strike to Aaron Green on TCU’s second play from scrimmage against Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and later had a 35-yard TD grab in the game.

Listenbee is the rare guy whose speed coming out of high school from the recruiting sites was actually undersold. Listed as a 4.5 40 guy, in June, he clocked a personal-record 10.03 seconds in the 100 meters to finish seventh at the NCAA nationals in Eugene, Ore.

"He’s always been a lot faster than 4.5," coach Gary Patterson said. "Ask everyone in our conference."

Read more about Listenbee here.

3. Anthony Zettel, Penn State, DT: Like most guys on this list, this is a terrific football player. The 6-4, 281-pound Zettel made first-team All-Big Ten selected by both coaches and media, and led the team in TFLs (17), sacks (8) and INTs (3). Zettel is a beast in the weight room. He set school records in the hang clean (425) and the power clean (390). That stuff got him on this list, but it’s all of this other head-turning stuff that gets him on the top five.

As a high schooler in Michigan, Zettel set the state record in the shot put with a throw of 61 feet, 8 inches. Some of Zettel’s other eye-popping exploits can be seen on video. Like: 

–How he can hit a golf ball 380 yards off the tee. A 10-handicapper, Zettel said that after football he might try entering some Long Drive contests. He credits his shot-putting background. "I just have a lot of torque and hip rotation," he says. "I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my shoulders, but I can really get my hips around."

–How he can throw a football 75-yards plus. With no wind. "On a good throw, maybe 80 (yards)," he says, adding that his fastball has been clocked at 92 mph. "I always had a good arm. I was a good pitcher. Baseball was my best sport." Zettel says he can even throw a football farther than his pal, Christian Hackenberg, Penn State’s strong-armed QB. "I can throw it farther," Zettel says. "He can throw it more accurate. He knows I can throw it farther, but he’s close."

–How the aspiring MMA fighter (he’s been training three or four days a week during the offseason for the past three years with Bruce Lombard) can do a roundhouse kick and in this case almost decapitate a teammate with a full bottle of water.

–How he once tackled a tree and brought it to the ground. "We were out getting firewood," he said. "There was a dead tree. I just decided to tackle it. It wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve done. Luckily, I didn’t get injured. I wouldn’t do it again."

How @anthonyzettel trains in the off season

A video posted by @dudas_5 on

2. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, DE: A shredded 6-5, 262-pound sophomore with an eight-pack, Garrett set an SEC freshman record in 2014 with 11.5 sacks. Garrett also clocked in the mid-4.4s in the 40 this offseason, according to Aggies strength coach Larry Jackson, who said the only player he’s been around who was anywhere near as explosive as Garrett was Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma. 

Garrett also vertical-jumped 39 inches and broad-jumped 10-9 1/2. He leg pressed at the end of the summer 1,100 pounds. He chain benched pressed 405 pounds for two reps and 430 for one. His power clean went up from the spring (352) to 372. Garrett’s deadlift is 528 pounds. Amazing numbers, especially when you consider he’s just finished his first full offseason in a college strength program.

Garrett’s mom was an All-American hurdler. His older brother, Sean Williams, played in the NBA, and his older sister, Brea, is a record-setting weight thrower on the Aggies’ track team.

Garrett won’t turn 20 till Dec. 29.

1. Shawn Oakman, Baylor, DL: In 2014, Oakman emerged as a dominant force for the Bears, notching 11 sacks, 19.5 TFLs and three forced fumbles. The 6-9, 271-pounder has done some amazing things in the weight room, too. In May, he did a 40-inch box jump while holding a 70-pound dumbbell in each hand. Then, in the offseason, he did four pull-ups despite having an additional 120 pounds harnessed to his waist.

"That’s his deal," Baylor strength coach Kaz Kazadi said. "He can load that up. He’ll put 120 pounds on there. He’d love to get there and put 200 pounds on there if he could, but he’s gotta be smart. He’s here to play football, not to display his knack."

Kazadi said Oakman has just 6 percent body fat and can vertical-jump 38 inches when he’s fresh. "He looks Calvin Johnson-ish, but then you get up close to him and you see how huge he is. He’s a 400-pound bencher and he’s doing it with those long arms. He’s a 600-pound squatter and he’s doing it with those long legs."

As for what he expects Oakman to do at the NFL Combine next winter in the 40-yard dash: "I think he’ll definitely go sub-4.7 if he feels good about it. I think he can go 4.6. We focus more on the 10 and the 20 here, but when he gets to that 40, he’s got an extremely long stride. It’ll be like three steps and he’s done."

Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, "The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks," came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.