Speed You Won't Believe

If raw talent, excellent work ethic, a nonstop motor and sonic speed are enough to assure success in college football, Euclid Cummings of Roswell, Ga., may just be the next great thing at defensive end.

What's remarkable about Cummings' rising-star status is that this time last year he was preparing to play football for the first time since the third grade when he competed in the Pop Warner League. His eight-year hiatus from the gridiron was filled with athletics, primarily basketball and baseball, but he didn't show a real interest in the game he abandoned as an eight year-old, a half-a-lifetime ago.

Then before his junior year at Centennial High School, he one day decided to give football another try. The spontaneous decision was an instantaneous success as he became an immediate two-way starter for the Knights and became a standout at defensive end and tight end. By that time he was already growing into a frame better suited for hard knocks than hardwood, one better constructed for digging in the trenches than gliding on the diamonds.

As eye opening as his high school debut was, it wasn't what had college coaches fixated on Cummings. Instead of a long season it only took 4.53 seconds for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound athlete to earn most coveted status among college scouts. That's how long it took him to cover 40 yards at a late spring combine. He later ran a 4.55 at South Carolina's football camp and has been calibrated close to that clocking at several college football camps and a couple of combines this summer, including stops at MIddle Tennessee, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia Tech.

Tennessee was the first SEC school to offer Cummings, and certainly no college team values speed more than the Vols, especially if they can find it in a Leonard Little type package. Undoubtedly, it's far too early to compare the newcomer to an All-Pro player, but it's hard to ignore some of the physical parallels. Before Little became a rich man sacking NFL signal callers he was famous in SEC for his ability to attack off the edge with his speed, strength and athletic ability.

Despite a protracted respite from football, and only a season under his belt, Cummings discipline, dedication and ultra athleticism will help him close the experience gap. Scout.com Southeastern Recruiting Manager Burke Hayes describes the shining Knight's potential like this: "An ultra-talented athlete with a ton of potential, Cummings has as much upside as anybody. Long and fast, he has the all of the tools to be a prototypical DE at the next level and beyond. Has a huge frame and can hold 30-plus pounds. Has and plays with LB speed and technique will only get better with time."

The Vols early offer, ideal fit and immediate need at defensive end has pushed them to the top of his leader board ahead of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia Tech. "I was very happy and surprised with the Tennessee offer because I didn't really know they were that interested in me," he told Hayes last month. "But I have always heard a lot about them and they are one of the top teams.

"Tennessee is a good program and they play in the SEC. But there are some other teams that are getting better and I am interested in them, too."

Although his long absence hasn't diminished Euclid Cummings' speed, it has delayed his development. He acknowledges a need to improve his technique and to refine a couple of go-to moves to enhance his speed off the edge.

If the Volunteers can hold their edge and earn Euclid's pledge the pass rush get a shot of intensity and velocity. Would that be paper or plastic Mr. SEC QB?

Editor's Note: Cumminngs hasn't responded to recent requests for interviews. Could an announcement be in the offing?

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