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Who is the Fastest Buckeye?
By Patrick Murphy
Denzel Ward used his elite speed to be a special teams star last year for the Buckeyes
Photo by Dan Harker
 

COLUMBUS – They say speed kills, and Urban Meyer is out for blood.

After spending six years with Florida in the SEC – the perceived fastest conference in college football – Meyer came to Columbus and wanted to bring that speed to Ohio State and the Big Ten. Heading into his fifth season with the Buckeyes, Meyer certainly has the fast athletes he was looking for.

“We’ve got a lot of fast guys at that position,” wide receiver Terry McLaurin said of his room.

“We pride ourselves on speed around here so there’s going to be a lot of guys that want that top spot.”

Many of the OSU receivers were also track stars in high school, but two of the wideouts, Dontre Wilson and James Clark, are now competing at the collegiate level. Wilson has been limited both on the football field and the track due to a sore foot, but Clark has excelled in his secondary sport.

“James placed in the top five I think in his first meet,” McLaurin said, “so that says a lot about his athleticism and his vertical speed.”

While these two are certainly in contention for the fastest receiver on the team, the Buckeyes have plenty of options if they need to win a foot race. When asked for the fastest player in his position group, McLaurin essentially gave a run down of the depth chart.

“I’m not going to not put myself in there,” he began.

“James is up there, Torrance Gibson is up there, Parris Campbell. So we’ve got a lot of guys that can really run. Johnnie Dixon, he has a lot of vertical speed. Not a lot of people may know that. So we’ve got a lot of fast guys at that position.”

Speed doesn’t just come from the wide receiver room either. Cornerback Denzel Ward was praised all last season by Meyer for his success on special teams and he credits much of that to his speed.

“I think my speed was a big factor,” Ward said, admitting his high school coach used him in a similar way as a gunner.

While the receivers often get kudos for their speed, Ward isn’t letting them have all the credit. He not only claimed to be fastest player on the team, but also said he can run a 4.2 40-yard dash – for reference, the fastest time at this year’s NFL Combine was 4.33 seconds.

When McLaurin was asked about Ward’s claim of being the fastest Buckeye, he wasn’t quite sure, saying another player might have something to say about that.

Terry McLaurin is one of many Buckeyes with a lot of speed
Photo by Dan Harker
 

“Denzel is real fast, but if you ask James Clark, James Clark will give him a run for his money too,” McLaurin said. “Denzel, he has a lot of respect for his speed, especially what he did in the Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl. So there’s a lot of fast guys among us.”

Under Meyer, speed has become a major focus. The Ohio State coaches believe being faster than the opposition gives the team a major advantage, and the record – 50-4 over Meyer’s tenure – speaks for itself.

While some players are just born fast, there is one man who gets credit for helping to increase guys’ speed.

“Coach Mick, he has a great program here helping us get faster and working on our craft. So he’s done a great job of helping me get faster,” Ward said of strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti.

“He does a great job of preparing us, working on our craft at the 40. He’s a good coach.”

The Buckeyes are fast, there’s no doubting that, but there seems to be no clear answer as to who is the fastest player on the team. The one way to resolve that would be a foot race. Could that happen?

“Ummm, we get enough running in practice, but everything is competitive with us,” McLaurin said with a laugh. “If a guy wants to race, on the jugs machines, whatever it is, we’re a real close group so we take competition to heart between us all.

“So if there’s a day that everybody wants to race, I’m pretty sure as competitors we’re going to be down for it.”

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