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The Hokie-ness of hand-timed 40’s

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With Miami’s Pro Day around the corner, let’s look at hand-timed 40’s around the college Pro Day landscape.

Miami Hurricanes’ Greg Rousseau: ‘We’re going to do big things this year’ Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

With Miami’s Pro Day fast approaching, be wary of the hand timed 40 yard dash results. If you’re questioning the spelling of the title of the post, it’s a pun about the Virginia Tech Hokies ritualistically having ridiculous 40 yard dash times at their Pro Day only to come back down to earth at the NFL Combine.

With the amount of data sharing that will be taking place between college and professional teams very soon, the Combine might become moot, anyway. Businesses like Tracking Football will make the need for controlled 40 times or pro agilities a thing of the past. Scouts, coaches, and personnel will have in-game data at their fingertips.

Coaches, players, former players, etc have been chiming in on the hand-timed 40’s around college football’s Pro Day experiences. I think everyone involved would rather have participated in a true NFL Combine. The pressure of it being the Combine is enough to see the mettle of some players. It’s the biggest job interview of their football careers- do they ball out or fold up?

Plus there is the interview portion, position drills, and even seeing how the players manager their sleep and the Indianapolis night life during this big moment.


Measuring stick

So why are the times so skewed at a Pro Day compared to the NFL Combine? Are the fields short? Penn State was accused of that (what hasn’t State College, PA been accused of?) in recent years. Some people just have itchy stop watch fingers, they want their players to look good and get hype surrounding them.

Makes sense to me in one hand, but also makes your coaching staff out to be untrustworthy if you’re caught fudging distances or times. Sometimes it’s who is taking the time for other reasons. Coaches use different methods (first movement, arm drop, back foot) to determine a starting position.

There are a couple of accurate measures that can at least be compared. One is to film the run. The difference between the watch and the film can be seen in the tweet above.

Or you can actually attempt to get a real time by using science like in the clip above.

There are also gimmicks like the Freelap timing system (@Freelapglobal). I use a Freelap in my athlete training and if you set it up properly it’s not exactly laser timing but it’s better than a hand-timed 40 with a stop watch.


What gives?

In the end, it makes this NFL Draft in 2021 even more likely to rely on game film than ever before. Scouts and personnel people are going to have to really breakdown game film, time players moving on the field, and evaluate from there. Throw out the old school metrics and watch someone perform in a game, that’s what counts anyway, right?

With Miami’s Pro Day fast approaching Greg Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips are Miami’s two likely 1st round draft picks in ‘21. Rousseau, the defensive end who sat out the ‘21 season and Phillips, the defensive end who finally played in the ‘21 season will have all eyes on them.

Both players have to prove they’re more than a one-hit wonder. Rousseau is taller and lankier while Phillips is quicker and more stout at the point of attack. Both have strengths and weaknesses and Phillips biggest neg is his injury history while Rousseau’s will be if his Pro Day isn’t stupid good he sat out and has no film from the past year. If they go in the 1st round both players were right- Rousseau for sitting out and Phillips for entering the draft early.