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The Recruiting Rules: Rule 5 - Speed kills

You can never, ever, have too much speed.

Whether its the pace at which plays are run or the quickness of a given player, speed is something that teams both covet and fear. And, that double edged sword leads us to the next Recruiting Rule:

Speed Kills

Now, this rule is both a guideline to recruiting and a program philosophy. When considering most positions — QB, OL and interior DL and maybe certain LBs being the exceptions — speed is a major factor in player evaluation and roster construction. Speed — along with size (as detailed in Recruiting Rule 4) is something that you can’t teach. And teams covet it greatly.

In the recent past, teams have spoken on offense and defense about “needing more speed”. Mark Richt made such statements about the WRs at Miami when he first took over as Head Coach. Scott Frost is trying to use speed — the foundation of his undefeated UCF team in 2017 — to turn around his Alma Mater Nebraska in his first year there as Head Coach. And the list goes on and on.

Much like I said in the previous rule regarding size, teams have to decide how important speed is when evaluating potential recruits. And, as I said in the previous rule about size, exceptional speed can, at times, overcome other deficiencies that the player may have (like less-than-ideal size or bulk, for example).

Think about Reggie Bush at USC. Or Tavon Austin at West Virginia. Or De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon. Or Trindon Holiday at LSU. Or Devin Hester at Miami. Or (insert name of your favorite speed demon here). With each of those players, simply listing their name brings back memories of the many times their electric speed changed games. And that’s why speed kills.

“Speed is so important these days because the game is played at an amazing pace on each play,” a recruiting scout told Bleacher/Report for this 2013 article. “Even the linemen recruits must have some speed to be successful for their position because if they can’t run then that limits what they can do on the field.”

Even just recently, 247sports released their list of the 25 fastest players in college football. If speed wasn’t something that mattered, they wouldn’t waste their time. BUT, to the contrary, speed has incredible value and importance, and the way you get speed on your team is through recruiting.

See what I’m saying here?

Now, speed as an asset is something that teams have to balance with size (per Recruiting Rule 4) and other demonstrable football skills. At RB, for example, is it more important to have a player with elite speed and little else, or a player with average speed and high level vision, balance, change of direction, and instincts? There is a case to be made either way, but eventually, teams will need to find speed on the roster to build a complete team.

There is perhaps no position where speed is as important a trait as wide receiver. Coaches routinely lament having to change defensive philosophy or implementation because the opposing team has an elite speed threat on the opposite side of the ball. Think about what teams had to do when Ahmmon Richards was healthy for Miami. Or, in clearer terms, what teams in college and the NFL had to do for nearly 20 years to contend with Randy Moss. Even a player like Ted Ginn Jr., whose skills are moderate at best, has been an impact player in college at the NFL based solely on his blazing speed.

Speed isn’t something that only exists on offense, either. Teams recruit fast DBs as the counter-balance to offenses recruiting fast WRs. The term “recovery speed” for a DB — the ability to make up ground when running behind a receiver or running back — is frequently used when describing players. Because speed kills.

By recruiting and prioritizing speed across multiple recruiting classes, teams can have a cadre of players who, at any time, can change the scoreboard from anywhere on the field. Whether it be offense or defense, speed is among the most prized attributes a player can have.

Obviously, speed isn’t the primary trait to consider when looking at offensive linemen or kickers, but when considering most other positions, the speed of a player being recruited matters to the team that is recruiting them. Even if there’s only one or two “speed first/above all else” specialists on a given roster, teams need speed to be competitive and successful.

Whether offense, defense, or special teams, speed is something that teams want and need to be successful. All things being equal, if the guy with the ball is faster than the guys trying to stop him from scoring, good things usually happen.

No matter how you slice it, speed kills and that’s why teams, good recruiting teams, covet it greatly. Sounds like a Recruiting Rule to me.