Is Henry Ruggs III really that fast?
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Henry Ruggs III saved his best for last.
The junior wide receiver made his regular appearance in the Alabama media room this week, but it was when the cameras were off and he was on his way out that the junior wide receiver made the statement that rippled through the college football world.
When someone asked what the Crimson Tide's GPS system clocked his top speed during his 81-yard touchdown at South Carolina, Ruggs said 24.3 mph.
He also added that it was his third fastest speed at Alabama. Ruggs was out the door before anyone could follow up to ask about his top two scores.
The play contributed to Alabama tallying nearly 400 receiving yards after the catch, and was latest in a sting of successful slant passes that have been extremely difficult to defend.
Most have been part of the run-pass option, combined with a quick release from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and a group of fast receivers catching the ball in stride.
“The biggest thing is momentum," Ruggs said. "We trust Tua because he’ll put the ball where he needs to. I mean, if there’s a defender around, he’ll throw it low so we’ll have to go down and get it. But we trust him, so the momentum of the ball carries us one way, and we just follow it. And sometimes it’s just fortunate enough to not have anybody in that lane to be running.”
Although no one is doubting that Ruggs is fast, and he's being hailed as a possible first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft has claim has sparked a bit of a debate among talent evaluators and combine experts.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I'll take it back 60 years. I personally timed Bo Jackson (4.29) and Deion (4.25) and sat 10 yards from the start line when John Ross ran his 4.22. Timed Barry Sanders at 4.38, but Barry ran in tennis shoes and shorts and never warmed up. Just showed up, got to the line, took off <a href="https://t.co/RsgGXyNMMs">https://t.co/RsgGXyNMMs</a></p>— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) <a href="https://twitter.com/Gil_Brandt/status/1174366216011407360?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 18, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Here are five other things that Ruggs talked about this week:
How do you judge kickoff into corner (as against South Carolina), will it go out of bounds or into the end zone, or do you have to get it?
“The biggest thing was me, off the bounce, I saw it going out of bounds. That decision is a split second decision. If it’s close you can’t really chance it; you have to go ahead and get it and get up and the field and get what you can get before the kickoff team gets down. But if it’s going out of bounds I’d rather take the flag.”
How has Alabama been so good in kick coverage?
“Probably just preaching that we race down the field. That’s the biggest thing. We race to see who can get the to the ball first and who can make the tackle first. Of course, with Will (Reichard) kicking the ball with good hang time it lets us get down there before the return team can set up.”
You’re the fastest guy, but your role in kick coverage is to usually hang back, is that right?
“I’m a second level player, so I’m not supposed to be the first one to the ball even though there times I do. But that’s not my role. I do what I’ve got to do.”
Receiving corps as group has a lot of attention, but some have gotten more than DeVonta Smith. Has he been overlooked?
“I would definitely say he’s been overlooked, but moreso by you guys in the media. We know what he can do. We’re brothers with him in the [receivers] room with him, we see him practicing. With the group we have, you never know who is going to make plays, who is going to have a big game. Obviously, that [South Carolina] was his game. We know he can make plays. We know that at any moment any guy can have a big game. It happens he had that big game last week.”
What did you think of Slade Bolden getting in there as a Wildcat quarterback?
“We were excited for that. We’re always excited for anybody in that group to get in and have a chance to make a play. Even after he got out of the Wildcat, he came in and caught a pass. We said he should have scored, but he said he slipped. But that’s exciting just because one of our brothers is going out there and making a play when we’re not out there. ... He’s came a long way. I mean, he’s been a team player. He does a lot of things on the scout field for the defense. But when he comes to our field, he practices hard, he works at full speed, tries to get better.”