It's a debate that has been picking up steam within the University of Kentucky football program over the past year: Just who is the fastest Wildcat?
We'll probably never know the real answer.
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Two men have staked claim to the No. 1 spot, running backs Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith.
”I have something to tell y'all,“ Locke said at UK's Media Day. ”I'm the fastest guy on the team. I have blazing speed. (Smith) might be fast, but I'm faster. He's quick, but I'm quicker.“
So far, though, neither Locke nor Smith has been willing to put their money where their mouths are and settle it in a race.
Here's Smith's side of the story: ”I've challenged (Locke) numerous times, and he's turned me down. I'm just waiting on him.“
Locke had a different take: ”I called him out. He didn't want to race.“
Smith has never been afraid to proclaim his speed and always seems to be looking for a challenge. In the week leading up to UK's game at Arkansas last year, Smith said he'd welcome the opportunity to race Arkansas star back Darren McFadden.
”I just like beating people,“ Smith said. ”I'm a competitive guy. I take pride in it. It's been that way my whole life. I could be sitting there with a group of people, and we'd start talking stuff, and then all of sudden I'd be like, "Let's race!'
”I remember when I was little, my dad would get older guys to race me. They would beat me because they had longer strides than me and I was young. But racing grown men when I was 10 really helped me push myself to improve my speed, and it just carried over.“
Both players ran blazing times in the 40-yard dash at UK's Pro Day this spring. Locke was timed at 4.21, while Smith came in at 4.24. Combined, they give the Wildcats a combination of speed backs that matches up with any in the SEC.
UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips didn't get in the middle of the fastest man conversation, but he's glad to have both Smith and Locke at his disposal in the backfield.
”I can tell you this, they both are fast,“ Phillips said. ”I don't know who's faster, but they're both really, really fast. It's nice to have a pair of guys who can take it the distance at any moment back there. That's something we didn't have when we first got here.“
Phillips said that some members of UK's freshman class might ultimately be able to give Locke and Smith a run for their money. Miami native Eric Adeyemi's name has already been tossed into the mix. Adeyemi said he was timed at 4.33 out of high school.
”I'm fast,“ Adeyemi said. ”Coming from Florida, you've got to have that swagger.“
But Adeyemi isn't ready to proclaim himself the top cat just yet.
”I'm just trying to learn the plays right now,“ he said. ”But after the season, I'll work even more on my speed and try and get my time in the 4.2 range.“
”All he needs is a semester in the weight room and he'll be running with those guys.“
When asked about Adeyemi's speed, Smith didn't seem concerned.
”Who's he?“ Smith said in a playfully mocking tone. ”Did you say Emmy? (Adeyemi's name is pronounced Ad-uh-YEM-ee) Are you talking about the Emmy Awards?“
Phillips said E.J. Fields and Winston Guy are two more rookies who have elite speed.
”We've got some speed on this football team,“ Phillips said. ”We're closing the gap on the Floridas, Tennessees and Georgias.“
After football season, Locke takes his wheels over to the track team, where he was an NCAA Indoor All-American as a freshman last year.
”Track is all about technique; in football you just run,“ Locke said. ”There's a big difference. There are some track guys that won't run nearly as fast in pads as they would without them. But I feel like I'm faster in pads because you've got people chasing you. As far as game speed, you have to take it to another level.“
Locke says he has NFL aspirations but won't rule out a career in pro track.
”I'll go where that money's at,“ Locke said. ”I'm not a fool. I'm hoping that the hard work will pay off and one day I'll make it to the NFL, but I'm going to keep my options open.“
As for who's the fastest man, Locke said the debate isn't likely to get settled.
”People will never know,“ Locke said. ”We'll probably never race. That's just something that people will have to just keep talking about.“
Boyd out with mono
Kentucky freshman receiver Aaron Boyd will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with mononucleosis, UK Coach Rich Brooks announced.
Brooks said the typical recovery period for mono is 4-6 weeks and said Boyd will be inactive for at least a week. The Wildcats will have their first practice in full pads on Saturday.
”The good news is we caught it before contact started tomorrow,“ Brooks said. ”With an enlarged spleen, that obviously would have put him in tremendous danger. We will re-evaluate his condition after he starts working out and learning again.“
Boyd, a prep standout at Henry Clay, was the highest-ranked member of the Wildcats' recruiting class. His brother, Shane, was a former UK quarterback and is currently with the NFL's Houston Texans.
Brooks said it's too early to determine whether Boyd will redshirt.