Comparing NFL and high school 40-yard dash times: A horrifying revelation

USA TODAY Sports

There must be some explanation for claimed high school 40 times not being as good as official NFL Combine 40 times. Yes, we're kidding.

An in-depth SB Nation investigation has uncovered a conspiracy between major college coaches to make football players slower. The hours-long investigation compared the 40-yard dash times given to high school recruiting sites by 203 players with the 40-yard dash times recorded by those same athletes at the NFL Combine.

The results were staggering:

  • 157 of the 203 players are as fast or slower than they were in high school, according to their claimed 40 times.
  • The average college football player is nearly a tenth of a second slower (e.g., a NFL Combine 4.5 after a high school 4.4) after four to five years in a college strength and conditioning program as he was when he entered that program.
  • 93 players ran a sub-4.5 second 40 yard dash in high school. By the time they finished college, just 40 players were capable of breaking the 4.5-second mark.

PLAYER COLLEGE POS NFL 40 HS 40 DIFF CONF

P.J. Lonergan LSU OL 5.38 4.78 0.60 SEC

Menelik Watson Florida State OL 5.29 4.72 0.57 ACC

Kwame Geathers Georgia DL 5.44 5 0.44 SEC

Landry Jones Oklahoma QB 5.11 4.7 0.41 B12

Jordan Hill Penn State DL 5.23 4.82 0.41 B1G

D.J. Fluker Alabama OL 5.31 4.9 0.41 SEC

Reid Fragel Ohio State OL 5.14 4.74 0.40 B1G

Zach Boren Ohio State RB 5 4.61 0.39 B1G

Everett Dawkins Florida State DL 5.06 4.68 0.38 ACC

Sam Montgomery LSU DL 4.81 4.44 0.37 SEC

Tom Wort Oklahoma LB 4.78 4.42 0.36 B12

Datone Jones UCLA DL 4.8 4.47 0.33 PAC

Gerald Hodges Penn State LB 4.78 4.46 0.32 B1G

Sam Barrington South Florida LB 4.91 4.6 0.31 EAST

Brandon Magee Arizona State LB 4.74 4.44 0.30 PAC

Ray Graham Pittsburgh RB 4.8 4.5 0.30 EAST

Malliciah Goodman Clemson DL 4.87 4.57 0.30 ACC

Sheldon Richardson Missouri DL 5.02 4.72 0.30 SEC

Joe Madsen West Virginia OL 5.2 4.9 0.30 B12

Chris Pantale Boston College TE 4.99 4.7 0.29 ACC

Josh Boyd Mississippi State DL 5.14 4.85 0.29 SEC

Theo Riddick Notre Dame RB 4.68 4.4 0.28 IND

Rex Burkhead Nebraska RB 4.73 4.46 0.27 B1G

Tanner Hawkinson Kansas OL 5.07 4.8 0.27 B12

Conner Vernon Duke WR 4.68 4.41 0.27 ACC

Nick Moody Florida State LB 4.71 4.45 0.26 ACC

DeVonte Holloman South Carolina LB 4.76 4.5 0.26 SEC

Stepfan Taylor Stanford RB 4.76 4.5 0.26 PAC

MarQueis Gray Minnesota QB 4.73 4.48 0.25 B1G

Tony Jefferson Oklahoma S 4.75 4.5 0.25 B12

Dion Sims Michigan State TE 4.75 4.5 0.25 B1G

Oday Aboushi Virginia OL 5.45 5.2 0.25 ACC

Bradley McDougald Kansas S 4.74 4.5 0.24 B12

T.J. Moe Missouri WR 4.74 4.5 0.24 SEC

Braxston Cave Notre Dame OL 5.33 5.09 0.24 IND

Jason Weaver Southern Miss OL 5.44 5.2 0.24 CUSA

Justin Pugh Syracuse OL 5.14 4.9 0.24 EAST

Daimion Stafford Nebraska S 4.69 4.46 0.23 B1G

Zeke Motta Notre Dame S 4.83 4.6 0.23 IND

Joseph Randle Oklahoma State RB 4.63 4.4 0.23 B12

D.J. Swearinger South Carolina S 4.67 4.44 0.23 SEC

Matt Stankiewitch Penn State OL 5.43 5.2 0.23 B1G

Manti Te'o Notre Dame LB 4.82 4.6 0.22 IND

Jordan Reed Florida TE 4.72 4.5 0.22 SEC

Tourek Williams FIU DL 4.92 4.7 0.22 BELT

Andre Ellington Clemson RB 4.61 4.4 0.21 ACC

Kevin Minter LSU LB 4.81 4.6 0.21 SEC

Nate Williams Ohio State DL 4.88 4.67 0.21 B1G

Chase Thomas Stanford LB 4.91 4.7 0.21 PAC

Philip Lutzenkirchen Auburn TE 4.94 4.73 0.21 SEC

Damontre Moore Texas A&M DL 4.95 4.74 0.21 SEC

Ryan Nassib Syracuse QB 5.06 4.85 0.21 EAST

Johnathan Hankins Ohio State DL 5.31 5.1 0.21 B1G

Lonnie Pryor Florida State RB 4.7 4.5 0.20 ACC

Tyler Wilson Arkansas QB 4.95 4.75 0.20 SEC

T.J. Barnes Georgia Tech DL 5.3 5.1 0.20 ACC

Darius Johnson SMU WR 4.6 4.4 0.20 CUSA

Jake Stoneburner Ohio State TE 4.65 4.46 0.19 B1G

Matt Scott Arizona QB 4.69 4.5 0.19 PAC

Adrian Bushell Louisville DB 4.58 4.4 0.18 EAST

Aaron Hester UCLA DB 4.62 4.44 0.18 PAC

Jawan Jamison Rutgers RB 4.68 4.5 0.18 EAST

Tommy Bohanon Wake Forest RB 4.88 4.7 0.18 ACC

Jordan Mills Louisiana Tech OL 5.37 5.2 0.17 WAC

Kenny Vaccaro Texas S 4.63 4.47 0.16 B12

Montee Ball Wisconsin RB 4.66 4.5 0.16 B1G

Jonathan Stewart Texas A&M LB 4.68 4.52 0.16 SEC

Dustin Hopkins Florida State K 4.74 4.58 0.16 ACC

Justice Cunningham South Carolina TE 4.94 4.78 0.16 SEC

Josh Evans Florida S 4.58 4.43 0.15 SEC

Phillip Thomas Fresno State S 4.65 4.5 0.15 MWC

Alec Ogletree Georgia LB 4.7 4.55 0.15 SEC

Sean Porter Texas A&M LB 4.75 4.6 0.15 SEC

Etienne Sabino Ohio State LB 4.75 4.6 0.15 B1G

Mike Gillislee Florida RB 4.55 4.4 0.15 SEC

Kevin Reddick North Carolina LB 4.72 4.57 0.15 ACC

Eric Fisher Central Michigan OL 5.05 4.9 0.15 MAC

Kyle Long Oregon OL 4.94 4.8 0.14 PAC

Daxton Swanson SHSU DB 4.56 4.42 0.14 FCS

Gavin Escobar San Diego St. TE 4.84 4.7 0.14 MWC

Nickell Robey USC DB 4.53 4.4 0.13 PAC

Mike James Miami RB 4.53 4.4 0.13 ACC

Collin Klein Kansas State QB 4.78 4.65 0.13 B12

Bjoren Werner Florida State DL 4.83 4.7 0.13 ACC

Jeff Baca UCLA OL 5.03 4.9 0.13 PAC

T.J. Johnson South Carolina OL 5.33 5.2 0.13 SEC

Rontez Miles California (PA) S 4.62 4.5 0.12 FCS

James Vandenberg Iowa QB 4.92 4.8 0.12 B1G

Stedman Bailey West Virginia WR 4.52 4.4 0.12 B12

Da'Rick Rogers Tennessee Tech WR 4.52 4.4 0.12 FCS

Sio Moore Connecticut LB 4.65 4.54 0.11 EAST

Nick Kasa Colorado TE 4.71 4.6 0.11 PAC

Micah Hyde Iowa S 4.56 4.45 0.11 B1G

Matt Furstenberg Maryland TE 4.62 4.52 0.10 ACC

Matthew Tucker TCU RB 4.55 4.45 0.10 B12

Logan Ryan Rutgers DB 4.56 4.46 0.10 EAST

Alec Lemon Syracuse WR 4.59 4.49 0.10 EAST

C.J. Anderson Cal RB 4.6 4.5 0.10 PAC

Eric Herman Ohio OL 5.25 5.15 0.10 MAC

Luke Joeckel Texas A&M OL 5.3 5.2 0.10 SEC

Johnathan Franklin UCLA RB 4.49 4.4 0.09 PAC

Matt Elam Florida S 4.54 4.45 0.09 SEC

Christine Michael Texas A&M RB 4.54 4.45 0.09 SEC

Jawanza Starling USC S 4.64 4.55 0.09 PAC

Mark Harrison Rutgers WR 4.46 4.38 0.08 EAST

Johnny Adams Michigan State DB 4.48 4.4 0.08 B1G

Robert Woods USC WR 4.51 4.43 0.08 PAC

Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech WR 4.53 4.45 0.08 WAC

Montel Harris Temple RB 4.68 4.6 0.08 EAST

Michael Buchanan Illinois DL 4.78 4.7 0.08 B1G

Marc Anthony Cal DB 4.63 4.56 0.07 PAC

Robert Lester Alabama S 4.66 4.59 0.07 SEC

Zaviar Gooden Missouri LB 4.47 4.4 0.07 SEC

Travis Bond North Carolina OL 5.27 5.2 0.07 ACC

Blidi Wreh-Wilson Connecticut DB 4.53 4.47 0.06 EAST

Lanear Sampson Baylor WR 4.46 4.4 0.06 B12

Tavarres King Georgia WR 4.47 4.41 0.06 SEC

Cierre Wood Notre Dame RB 4.56 4.5 0.06 IND

Tyler Eifert Notre Dame TE 4.68 4.62 0.06 IND

Mychal Rivera Tennessee TE 4.81 4.75 0.06 SEC

Brandon McGee Miami DB 4.4 4.35 0.05 ACC

EJ Manuel Florida State QB 4.65 4.6 0.05 ACC

Zac Stacy Vanderbilt RB 4.55 4.5 0.05 SEC

Levine Toilolo Stanford TE 4.68 4.63 0.05 PAC

Nick Becton Virginia Tech OL 5.2 5.15 0.05 ACC

Justin Hunter Tennessee WR 4.44 4.4 0.04 SEC

Keelan Johnson Arizona State S 4.54 4.5 0.04 PAC

Leon McFadden San Diego St. DB 4.54 4.5 0.04 MWC

Kenbrell Thompkins Cincinnati WR 4.54 4.5 0.04 EAST

Cornelius Washington Georgia LB 4.55 4.51 0.04 SEC

Ace Sanders South Carolina WR 4.58 4.54 0.04 SEC

T.J. McDonald USC S 4.59 4.55 0.04 PAC

Jamie Collins Southern Miss LB 4.64 4.6 0.04 CUSA

Mike Glennon NC State QB 4.94 4.9 0.04 ACC

Giovani Bernard North Carolina RB 4.53 4.5 0.03 ACC

Barkevious Mingo LSU DL 4.58 4.55 0.03 SEC

Terrance Williams Baylor WR 4.52 4.49 0.03 B12

Dee Milliner Alabama DB 4.37 4.35 0.02 SEC

DeAndre Hopkins Clemson WR 4.57 4.55 0.02 ACC

Jon Bostic Florida LB 4.61 4.59 0.02 SEC

Shamarko Thomas Syracuse S 4.42 4.4 0.02 EAST

Steve Williams Cal DB 4.42 4.4 0.02 PAC

Dwayne Gratz Connecticut DB 4.47 4.45 0.02 EAST

D.J. Harper Boise State RB 4.52 4.5 0.02 MWC

Devin Taylor South Carolina DL 4.72 4.7 0.02 SEC

Kayvon Webster South Florida DB 4.41 4.4 0.01 EAST

Tharold Simon LSU DB 4.51 4.5 0.01 SEC

Mike Edwards Hawaii DB 4.56 4.55 0.01 MWC

Tyrone Goard Eastern Kentucky WR 4.5 4.5 0.00 FCS

Demetrius McCray Appalachian State DB 4.54 4.54 0.00 FCS

Cobi Hamilton Arkansas WR 4.56 4.56 0.00 SEC

Margus Hunt SMU DL 4.6 4.6 0.00 CUSA

Dion Jordan Oregon DL 4.6 4.6 0.00 PAC

Le'Veon Bell Michigan State RB 4.6 4.6 0.00 B1G

Braden Brown BYU OL 5.2 5.2 0.00 IND

Jordan Devey Memphis OL 5.25 5.25 0.00 CUSA

Darius Slay Mississippi State DB 4.36 4.37 -0.01 SEC

Bryan Schwenke Cal OL 4.99 5 -0.01 PAC

Chance Warmack Alabama OL 5.49 5.5 -0.01 SEC

Jordan Poyer Oregon State DB 4.54 4.56 -0.02 PAC

Hugh Thornton Illinois OL 5.11 5.13 -0.02 B1G

Kenny Stills Oklahoma WR 4.38 4.4 -0.02 B12

Jonathan Cooper North Carolina OL 5.07 5.1 -0.03 ACC

Kerwynn Williams Utah State RB 4.48 4.52 -0.04 WAC

Xavier Rhodes Florida State DB 4.43 4.47 -0.04 ACC

Shawn Williams Georgia S 4.46 4.5 -0.04 SEC

Zach Ertz Stanford TE 4.76 4.8 -0.04 PAC

Markus Wheaton Oregon State WR 4.45 4.5 -0.05 PAC

Denard Robinson Michigan WR 4.43 4.48 -0.05 B1G

David Amerson NC State DB 4.44 4.5 -0.06 ACC

Terry Hawthorne Illinois DB 4.44 4.5 -0.06 B1G

Earl Wolff NC State S 4.44 4.5 -0.06 ACC

Michael Ford LSU RB 4.5 4.56 -0.06 SEC

Onterio McCalebb Auburn RB 4.34 4.4 -0.06 SEC

Eric Reid LSU S 4.53 4.6 -0.07 SEC

Sylvester Williams North Carolina DL 5.03 5.1 -0.07 ACC

Ryan Swope Texas A&M WR 4.34 4.41 -0.07 SEC

Josh Boyce TCU WR 4.38 4.45 -0.07 B12

John Wetzel Boston College OL 5.46 5.53 -0.07 ACC

Rod Sweeting Georgia Tech DB 4.42 4.5 -0.08 ACC

Joe Kruger Utah DL 4.83 4.91 -0.08 PAC

Sanders Commings Georgia DB 4.41 4.5 -0.09 SEC

Will Davis Utah State DB 4.51 4.6 -0.09 WAC

Chris Gragg Arkansas TE 4.5 4.6 -0.10 SEC

Khalid Wooten Nevada DB 4.53 4.63 -0.10 MWC

Jamar Taylor Boise State DB 4.39 4.49 -0.10 MWC

Lavar Edwards LSU DL 4.8 4.9 -0.10 SEC

Desmond Trufant Washington DB 4.38 4.5 -0.12 PAC

Corey Fuller Virginia Tech WR 4.43 4.55 -0.12 ACC

Tyrann Mathieu LSU DB 4.5 4.62 -0.12 SEC

Tavon Austin West Virginia WR 4.34 4.47 -0.13 B12

Knile Davis Arkansas RB 4.37 4.5 -0.13 SEC

Marquise Goodwin Texas WR 4.27 4.4 -0.13 B12

Robert Alford SE Louisiana DB 4.39 4.53 -0.14 FCS

Marquess Wilson Washington State WR 4.51 4.69 -0.18 PAC

Michael Williams Alabama TE 4.52 4.7 -0.18 SEC

Rodney Smith Florida State WR 4.51 4.7 -0.19 ACC

Sharrif Floyd Florida DL 4.92 5.12 -0.20 SEC

Geno Smith West Virginia QB 4.59 4.8 -0.21 B12

Alvin Bailey Arkansas OL 4.95 5.3 -0.35 SEC

Tyler Bray Tennessee QB 5.05 5.45 -0.40 SEC

Corey Lemonier Auburn DL 4.6 5.06 -0.46 SEC

Vintson Painter Virginia Tech OL 4.95 5.8 -0.85 ACC

PLAYER COLLEGE POS NFL 40 HS 40 DIFF CONF
The only other explanation is that almost all high school 40 times are bogus.

Some of college football's biggest programs were the biggest participants in the conspiracy.

LSU offensive lineman P.J. Lonergan, who reported a 4.78 second 40 yard dash in high school, ran a 5.38 at the Combine, a difference of more than a half a second. Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson saw his time increase from 4.72 to 5.29 seconds. Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State, LSU, and Florida State each had two players lose 0.3 seconds or more from their 40 yard dash time. Georgia, Alabama, UCLA, South Florida, Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Missouri, and West Virginia are also heavily implicated in the scandal.

Landry Jones, a man running on broken glass

Landry Jones was one of the most coveted high school quarterbacks in the country when he left Artesia High School in Artesia, NM for Oklahoma. He received four-star ratings from Rivals and Scout and was ranked as the sixth-best quarterback in the Class of 2008. He was 6-foot-5, 215 pounds with a Howitzer for a throwing arm and unparalleled composure in the pocket. He also reportedly ran a 4.78 second 40-yard dash.

The Oklahoma coaching staff improved on Jones' passing skills, but paradoxically changed his running style from "top high school athlete" to a style that could charitably be described as "barefoot on a sun-drenched beach":

Lolandry_medium

Despite spending the last five years in a near-professional strength and conditioning program, Jones ran a 5.11-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, nearly a half-second slower than he ran in high school. This sort of thing does not happen by accident.

In fact, Jones is not even the only Sooner to get markedly slower during his time in Norman. Oklahoma linebacker Tom Wort ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash in high school, a time that was 0.05 seconds faster than the fastest NFL linebacker prospect at this year's Combine. That was clearly too fast for the Sooners, who took this world-class athlete and slowed him down. Wort ran a pedestrian 4.78-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, a 0.36 second increase in four seasons. If he had redshirted and spent a fifth season at Oklahoma, Wort might not have broken five seconds.

Four Sooners ran the 40-yard dash at the Combine this week, and three of them -- Jones, Wort, and safety Tony Jefferson -- were more than a quarter-second slower than they reported in high school. Wide receiver Kenny Stills was 0.02 seconds faster than his high school time, likely because he only spent three years under the thumb of Bob Stoops and his noted "slow football down" mantra.

Oklahoma's philosophy has permeated the entire Big 12. Of 18 former Big 12 players who had published high school 40-yard dash times and ran at the Combine, 13 of them were slower now. The average Big 12 senior was 0.12 seconds slower now than he was when he left high school. The only three players to improve by more than a tenth of a second were West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin and quarterback Geno Smith, and Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, whose work with the U.S. Olympic Team offset Mack Brown's insatiable desire to make everyone slower.

The day SEC speed died

Of course, one conference prides itself on speed above all others: The SEC, which is so fast that conference blog titles are speed puns. Yet even in the speed-obsessed SEC, coaches are slowing players down.

The average SEC enrollee added 0.07 seconds to his 40 time while in college. All 12 SEC programs that had a player qualify for the study had at least one player run slower than he did in high school, an obvious sign that SEC coaches are colluding to slow their players down.

It was linemen who truly suffered massive slowdowns in the SEC. LSU offensive lineman P.J. Lonergan suffered the nation's largest loss of speed; his 5.38 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was 0.6 seconds slower than the 4.78 he reported in high school. Another LSU lineman, Sam Montgomery, was 0.37 slower than the completely believable 4.44 second 40-yard dash he ran four years before. Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, who ran a 4.9 second 40-yard dash in high school despite weighing 350 pounds and perpetually looking like he smelled fish, added 0.41 seconds to his 40 time by the end of his four years with Nick Saban.

B1G life, B1G stage, B1G 40 times

Unsurprisingly, the world's slowest football conference has set the gold standard for slowing its players down. Big Ten attendees at the NFL Combine were, on average, 0.18 seconds slower than they had been in high school.

All but three of the 22 players the Big Ten sent to the NFL Combine were as slow or slower now than they were when they entered college. When hypothetically reached for comment, conference commissioner Jim Delany probably explained that the legends and leaders the league sent to the combine were simply weighed down with the additional brain matter they had cultivated while at Big Ten institutions.

Penn State defensive lineman Jordan Hill suffered the most regression among Big Ten players. Hill's 4.82 second 40-yard dash in high school would have placed him 13th among all defensive linemen at this year's Combine, but he ran a 5.23 Monday, good for a tie for 30th. In fact, only five defensive linemen ran slower than Hill.

Despite having three coaches over the playing careers of the athletes at this year's Combine, Ohio State was one of the nation's top perpetrators of the slow-down conspiracy. All six Buckeyes at this year's Combine clocked in more than 0.15 seconds slower than they were in high school. Ohio State lineman Reid Fragel crammed 0.4 seconds onto his 4.74-second 40-yard dash time in high school, possibly due to his conversion from tight end to tackle. OSU running back/linebacker Zach Boren, who ran a completely believable 4.61-second 40 in high school, could not break five seconds at the Combine.

Surprisingly, the nation's slowest programs did not register such significant declines. Illinois, whose coach is probably too new and naive to really understand the conspiracy, has two of the three players who were faster now than in prep school. Michigan State sent two players to the Combine who ran at or near their high school levels. And Iowa's two participants were only barely slower now than they were before coming to Iowa City. When maybe asked for comment, coach Kirk Ferentz could've told reporters that Iowa recruits slowness and ushers it to its slightly slower conclusion through excessive huddling and horizontal passing.

For the devout, speed is forbidden fruit

At the nation's top two religious independents, Notre Dame and Brigham Young, slowness is a virtue.

All five Notre Dame players at this year's Combine were slower than the 40-yard dash times provided for them in high school. Running back Theo Riddick ran a 4.68 dash, 0.28 seconds slower than he ran before coming to South Bend. Highly-acclaimed safety Zeke Motta had slowed from 4.6 to 4.83 seconds. And Manti Te'o, who could run a blistering 4.6-second dash in high school, was so slow that he left Ravens coach John Harbaugh doing this:

Harbaughhatesteo_medium

BYU did not have a slowdown, per se, but offensive lineman Braden Brown was unable to improve on his already-turtlelike 5.2-second high school 40-yard dash.

The only possible explanation

Every football fan knows that speed is key to success, and coaches profess to understand that a fast football team will generally beat a slow football team. So why is it that so many of the nation's top head coaches are recruiting these fine-tuned high school athletes, players capable of running sub-4.5 times in the 40-yard dash, and slowing them to rather average speeds?

Why are they collaborating to keep these players out of speed conditioning and fill them full of pizza rolls and beer?

Television money, of course. A slower team runs fewer plays. Fewer plays during the course of a game allows for more dead television time. More dead television time allows networks to show more ads for the very corn chips and fancy pies that coaches use to make their players slower. More advertisements means more money in the coffers of the conferences and teams, which means bigger raises for the coaches who fatten the players up. It's a vicious cycle, eventually joined by every coach and every program, and it's slowly -- very slowly -- killing the sport.

The only other explanation is that almost all high school 40 times are bogus, but there's no way that's true.

More in College Football:

All in, at last: SB Nation inside Gus Malzahn's Auburn

Why Big Ten coaches should listen to the hive mind before hiring

Kiffin says USC's defense cost Barkley the Heisman

How to recruit 8th graders: Tips for Alabama and LSU

The best (and we mean worst) quotes from the Combine

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