"It's a good measurement point for them," said an observer. "They have already been lifting with J.T. [strength coach John Thomas] and running a ton with Jeremy [speed coach Jeremy Scott], so this gives the coaches an idea of where they are as they kick off their careers here."
The freshmen participate in a series of events that are often seen at the NFL Combine. "They do a bunch of combine stations — the bench [press], 3-cone drill, shuttle … oh yeah, and the 40 [yard dash]," another observer explained.
The staff keeps these numbers confidential. But we've been able to uncover a few of the 40 times from our program observers.
As one said, "This may be the fastest class we've ever had." Keep in mind that these are hand-timed numbers.
Among the players who stood out in the 40-yard dash to our practice observers are:
Devon Smith: Low 4.2-range
"This kid has amazing acceleration. And you put him in a race against another guy and he's even faster," one observer explained. Smith is a receiver/return man.
Shawney Kersey: Mid 4.2-range
"I'd say he's a half- or full-step slower than Smith, but he's still got a set of jets. He gets a lot of power out of his stride," an observer said. Kersey is a defensive back/receiver.
Stephon Morris: Low 4.4-range
Called "deceptively quick" by one observer, Morris "gets good acceleration and has a strong kick." Morris is a defensive back.
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong: Mid 4.4-range
A player who "is strong off the blocks," observers like that "he's a strong runner and uses his upper-body to push his stride." Obeng-Agyapong is a defensive back.
Gerald Hodges: High 4.4-range
"No surprise really, Gerald's been showing great speed for his impressive size," as one observer put it. Hodges, a safety, enrolled at Penn State in January.
Curtis Dukes: High 4.4-range
"This guy is like what, 20 pounds heavier than Hodges, and can come pretty damn close to his speed. He excites me the most. He's like a Mack Truck with a 911 Turbo under the hood," according to one observer. Dukes is a 230-pound running back.
Kevin Newsome: Low 4.5-range
As one observer said, "Kevin's been consistent with his speed. He's a good size guy, but put together and hustles — he can move. Once he starts seeing the field and getting comfortable with the playbook and his blocks that's going to be a dangerous weapon for him." Newsome, a quarterback, also enrolled in January.
NOTE: Penn State also uses an electronic timing system for 40-yard dashes. But those numbers are difficult to use for comparison purposes.
The timer on the system in question starts when an athlete moves his hand from a metal plate on the ground and ends when he breaks an electronic beam. This leads to times roughly two-tenths of a second slower than NFL Combine-style timing and roughly three-tenths slower than hand timing.
At the NFL Combine, the clock begins to roll when a starter pushes a button as the athlete fires out of his stance. The timer ends when the athlete breaks a beam.
FightOnState.com is the exclusive home to the BEST content and community covering Penn State football.