Is Ohio State as fast as Florida?
Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 1:22 a.m.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Sitting in the stands at the University of Phoenix stadium on Friday, Florida freshman Brandon James said what so many others have this week.
"With (Ohio State) being a Big Ten team, I don't think they've seen as much speed as we have," James said. "We have a little more all-around speed."
The perception that Florida is significantly faster than Ohio State has been a hot topic as Monday's BCS national title game approaches. It's been talked about so much, some Buckeyes feel disrespected.
"The way that it has been portrayed is that we have been winning games by walking and jogging," Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith said. "It is like our guys haven't been running."
Buckeyes defensive end Jay Richardson said the Gators are overestimating their speed advantage.
"I don't know if they respect our speed ... well, maybe it's not that they don't respect our speed, it's that they have a lot of confidence in their speed, which they should," Richardson said. "They're a fast, athletic team. But so are we."
Buckeyes defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said he has been asked about Florida's speed for over a month now.
"We've been hearing the same thing since it was announced we were playing Florida," Jenkins said. "It's nothing we can control. They're going to say what they want to say."
One player who feeds talk about Florida's speed is freshman Percy Harvin, who said his best 40-yard dash time is a blistering 4.22 seconds. The Gators' deep roster of speedsters includes receivers Jemalle Cornelius, Andre Caldwell and Jarred Fayson.
Buckeyes offensive tackle T.J. Downing feels the Gators speed is overhyped.
"They're only human. It's not like they're robots," Downing said. "I don't think they're any faster than anyone we've ever seen."
Ohio State center Doug Datish agreed. Datish said Texas and Michigan are comparable to Florida when it comes to speed. He added the Buckeyes can move a little bit, too.
"I have not heard anybody talk about Ted Ginn and how fast he is," Datish said. "I personally know how fast he is. He is one of the fastest people I have ever seen."
Ginn and fellow receiver Anthony Gonzalez have used their speed to make several big plays this season. Running back Antonio Pittman also possesses breakaway speed while Smith has above-average speed for a quarterback.
"Just because we're in the Big Ten," Pittman said, "they don't expect us to be as fast as we are."
There is a perception the SEC is built mostly around speed while the Big Ten is known more for its' strength and smash-mouth nature.
"Are there more fast guys in the SEC than the Big Ten? I don't know," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. "One thing I do know is they're fast."
Tressel has put an emphasis on recruiting speed since his arrival at Ohio State in 2001. Ohio State has put so much of an emphasis on speed, the team employs a speed coach. That is something not seen in many football programs, including Florida.
Butch Reynolds, a former Ohio State track All-American, is in his first season as the Buckeyes speed coordinator. Tressel understands the difference speed can make.
"More and more in college football, speed is the element that separates the good teams from the great teams," Tressel said.
So, one big question still remains: Is Ohio State as fast as Florida?
"We hope so," Tressel said. "We'll find out on Monday."
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