- Showcasing the top athletes in college football, the players whose physical abilities blow away even those accustomed to observing gifted players.
I’ve been compiling my annual Freaks list of college football’s top workout warriors in the sport for almost 15 years now. I set out to showcase the guys who create some of the biggest buzz inside their programs by displaying the rare physical abilities that wow folks who are typically used to observing gifted athletes. This list is compiled with the help of many coaches, players and sports information directors around the nation. One caveat: I try to avoid having multiple players from one program, but this year I had two instances where I felt I needed to bend that rule. This year we’re doing a top 40 countdown.
The former walk-on from Orange County, Calif., has been, pound-for-pound, the strongest player on the Broncos’ team the past two years. He’s only 5’7½” but is a rock-solid 195 pounds. Wolpin, who is battling for the starting running back job, benches 383 pounds, squats 555 and power cleans 361.
In high school in Houston, he was a track standout who played at a little over 200 pounds. Ejiofor has really developed since getting to Wake and had a huge 2016, notching 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He now packs 266 pounds on his 6’4” frame and still has tremendous burst. He vertical jumped 33.5 inches this off-season to go with a 4.77 40 and lifts almost a combined 1400 pounds in the power clean, bench press and squat. Plus, his coaches told me they love how instinctive he is as a pass rusher.
This guy is MACtion. A former high school QB who also averaged 45 yards per punt, Thompson, now 6’2”, 205, is coming off a huge 2016, when he caught 64 passes for a school-record 1,269 yards with 11 TDs. He bench presses 350 pounds and vertical jumps 37 inches. In addition, he has a 3.7 GPA.
A Florida product, Holcomb had zero FBS scholarship offers out of high school and arrived in Chapel Hill at 185 pounds in 2014. Last year the now 6’1”, 215-pounder earned a scholarship prior to the season, started all 13 games at outside linebacker and led the team with 115 tackles. Holcomb power cleans 395, hang cleans 395 and squats 585. On a Tar Heels team that had 11 players drafted or signed by the NFL this past spring, Holcomb led UNC in “Pound for Pound Power Index” (Total Weight/Body Weight).
He began 2016 as a backup and emerged as the Sun Belt Player of the Year after rushing for 1,402 yards. The 5’11”, 207-pound junior squats 630, benches 385, has clocked a 4.48 40 and vertical jumps 35 inches. “We have never seen Jalin hit his ceiling,” says one App State staffer. "Everything we throw in front of him he’s destroyed. Not only is he strong, explosive and fast, his conditioning is through the roof. He runs conditioning times with our skill guys, and nine out of 10 times he's in the front of the whole group."
Perhaps the most unfathomable streak going in college football is this: The Longhorns haven’t had an offensive lineman selected in the NFL draft since 2008. That drought, though, figures to end next spring. Word is Williams, an honor student who earned All-America honors last season as a sophomore, is high on NFL scouts’ radar. "He's a better player than any of the offensive tackles in the 2017 draft class,” former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah wrote in a recent prospect breakdown. The 6’6”, 315-pounder has a lot of brute strength to go with that intelligence and an on-field nastiness. He bench pressed 420 pounds this spring and dead lifts 550.
Bearcat RB Mike Boone is pretty freaky in his own right, but I went with DE Lyndon Johnson—his given name is actually Lyndon Baines Johnson Jr. At 6’6”, 300 pounds, he only has 14% body fat. He bench presses 415 pounds (even more impressive when you consider that he has an 86-inch wingspan), vertical jumps 32 inches and has leg pressed 1000 pounds for 10 reps.
A converted DE, the 6’5”, 308-pound Teller has started 30 games for the Hokies. In 2016, he was Virginia Tech’s starting left guard and won honorable mention All-ACC honors from the league’s coaches. This off-season he earned another prestigious distinction winning the Hokies’ “Hard Hat Champion,” awarded to the standout in the off-season conditioning program, after he power cleaned 400 pounds, squatted 600 and bench pressed 460.
NFL star/Freak emeritus James Harrison went viral this spring when he posted a stunning video of himself performing hip thrusts with a 675-pound barbell across his lap. The 6’3”, 315-pound Lancaster had quite an answer to that, posting a video of himself doing 800 pounds in the same exercise.
A two-year starter, Lancaster is one of the strongest men in college football. He’s done 34 reps on the bench of 225; deadlifts 740 pounds and also has an impressive broad jump (9’4”) for a man his size to go with a 27-inch vertical.
The Cougars had two very good options here: DT Ed Oliver and Adams, their 6’1”, 234-pound inside linebacker who led the team with 82 tackles last season. Adams benches 405 pounds, squats 605 and cleans 375. He also can vertical jump 36 inches. All that power lends itself to some pretty hefty collisions, including this one on Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield last season in Houston’s win over the Sooners.
The Hoosiers had a couple of other guys who I also considered, especially Alex Rodriguez, a 5’10”, 225-pound former walk-on running back who benches 425, squats 650 and verticals 42 1/2 inches. Instead, I went with Hoff, a 6’2”, 310-pound defensive tackle. Hoff led all Indiana D-linemen with 38 tackles last season to go with six tackles for loss. A former standout prep wrestler in Ohio, Hoff bench presses 500, hang cleans 395 and squats 700. He also moves surprisingly well for a guy his size clocking a 5.07 40 this spring.
The Pirates’ top tackler in 2016 (77) holds the ECU record for linebackers in the power clean at 374 pounds. He also squats 600 pounds and benches 385. Other impressive workout numbers of note: a 36.5” vertical jump, a 10’4” broad jump and a 4.56 40-time. Not bad for a guy who arrived in college as a walk-on.
His track cred is spectacular, having won Georgia state prep titles in the 300 hurdles, the 110 hurdles, the triple jump and the 4x100 relay. At Duke, the 5’11”, 185-pound junior has starred in the ACC as both a 110-meter hurdler and a triple jumper. This spring he also was named the Blue Devils' co-most improved defensive player as he deftly made the shift from cornerback to safety. Some inside the program think he could become the team’s best defender this year.
This is the second consecutive season the Horned Frogs powerhouse has made our Freaks list. A first-team Academic All-Big 12 pick, Morris started 11 games last season (nine at left guard and two at center). He’s a 500-pound bencher, squats 720 and cleans 450. Those hefty numbers barely outshined teammates Darius Anderson, a running back who ran a 4.39 40 and squats 660, and linebacker Ty Summers, a former high school QB that now can squat 700 and clean 400 despite only weighing 235 pounds.
The Buffaloes’ cornerback Isaiah Oliver is a pretty good candidate for this list too as he excels for the Colorado track team, but I’m going with their 6’2”, 220-pound inside linebacker. This spring Lewis broad jumped 10’10”, which is better than any linebacker did at this year’s NFL combine. He also power cleaned 345, second-most on the entire team, and squatted 435 for six reps. Lewis has quite the pedigree. His dad, Will, played CB in the NFL and CFL and is now the director of scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs. His uncle, Tim, was a standout DB at Pitt who was a first-round pick by the Green Bay Packers. Drew’s older brother Ryan is a cornerback at Pitt now. He also has three cousins who played football at Pitt, including former NFL DB-turned-front office man-turned-ESPN analyst Louis Riddick.
The Commodores’ all-time leading rusher (3,342 yards) has a shot after this season to finish No. 2 all-time in the SEC behind the legendary Herschel Walker. The 5’9”, 200-pound Webb benches 435—he’s also does 27 reps at 225, squats 565, cleans 360 and vertical jumps 36.5 inches.
It’s two years in a row on the Freaks list for Bryant. Last off-season, Mississippi State clocked him at a blazing 4.24 40. This year, it’s a bit slower, but 4.29 is still flying. Bryant’s other workout numbers are big-time as well. A 365-pound bench, a 35-inch vertical and 9’10” broad jump. Word is he’s primed for a strong season in large part thanks to the addition of Ron English as the Bulldogs’ new safeties coach.
The Florida native has excellent size for a corner at 6’1”, 201, but it’s his hops that really stands out. This off-season Irvine vertical jumped 43 inches. He also broad jumped 10’7” and squatted 500 pounds—2.5 times his body weight.