You don't need Browns coach Butch Davis raving about the speed possessed by Andre Davis to know how fast the rookie receiver can run.
Ben Taylor, a rookie vying for a spot at outside linebacker on the Browns' roster, has plenty of firsthand knowledge of Davis to verify the latter's speed attributes. Taylor was one of Davis' teammates at Virginia Tech, where the two helped the Hokies become one of the nation's premier Division I-A programs.
"He's a burner," Taylor said. "If a defender makes one mistake, he's by you."
Butch can't wait to watch the rookie receiver. During two minicamps, Butch said Andre made several "wow" plays, when the head of every coach turned to watch him make a spectacular catch.
Andre doesn't brag about his speed, which gave quarterback Michael Vick, now with the Atlanta Falcons, an inviting target at Virginia Tech. He's learned quickly that the speed of defensive backs in the NFL is better than it is on the college level.
"I still think (my speed) is good, but I think the gap has been closed a lot more now. I'm not running down the field wide open anymore unless someone makes a mistake," Andre said. "It's a matter of me being very consistent with that and realizing that every, single play moves so quick."
Davis' college numbers weren't outstanding in his final two years of college. An ankle injury limited him to nine games in his junior season, when the Hokies advanced to the national championship game against Florida State. He started every game last season, but the loss of Vick to the NFL didn't help his cause as he compiled 39 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns.
Still, there were flashes of big-play abilities that the Browns' offense has lacked the last three seasons.
"I would say in most games I could (get open at will) just because I could run, but I realized that it (speed) wasn't the main thing that got me here to the NFL," he said. "I have to do things like catch the ball underneath and make people miss. What I really enjoyed was making somebody miss and out-running a safety for a touchdown."
The initial impact Andre makes in the NFL might be on punt returns. In his junior season he returned 18 punts for 396 yards (a 22-yard average) and tied a school record by returning three for touchdowns. He averaged 12.5 yards on 35 punt returns last season, returning one for a score.
"I love getting the ball in my hands," he said. "Whatever that may be, whether it be punt returns or as a receiver. Once I get the ball in my hands, then I'm able to flow with it and make plays."
The Browns' passing game last season consisted primarily of Kevin Johnson, who caught 84 passes for 1,097 yards and nine touchdowns. Running back Jamel White was second in receptions with 44. Quincy Morgan, a second-round draft choice last season, was inconsistent in catching 30 passes for 432 yards and two touchdowns. If Davis makes a favorable impression early in camp, he could win the starting assignment opposite Johnson.
Davis knows it won't be an easy task. Veterans like cornerback Corey Fuller will make sure that he doesn't become overly confident in his skills.
"He's been getting on me and talking trash. He's also telling me that this is why you didn't get open or this is what you have to do to get open," Andre said. "I'll talk to him about things I'm doing that might be giving a route away."
Andre will have to rely on more than just speed.