Make no mistake about it, University of Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs is fast.
Ruggs displayed that last Saturday as he blew past most of South Carolina’s secondary for an 81-hard touchdown in Alabama’s 47-23 win. He told reporters Tuesday he has been measured at 24.3 miles per hour on that, although it isn’t quite precise to say he was “clocked” at that speed. Football players don’t simply run through a beam for a radar gun, the standard device for measuring the speed of a baseball or tennis ball.
Instead, UA players — and other elite level athletes — use wearable technology that includes a variety of sensors, including accelometers and GPS modules. Those devices relay data that is then interpreted by complex algorithms to provide all sorts of information ranging from “workload” to strain to “speed curves” and actual speeds.
Alabama uses the high-end Catapult System although there are other similar products like KINEXON (largely used for indoor sports) and Polar USA. Thus, the different algorithms make direct speed comparisons problematic. But it only takes a pair of eyes to know one thing: Henry Ruggs is fast.
Alabama has had other speed merchants at wide receiver, most notably track star James Mallard, who played for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in the early 1980s. But Ruggs, a junior from Montgomery, is a football player first. He doesn’t just sprint past defensive backs but is a solid route runner as well.
“That comes from being a student of the game, paying attention in the meetings and understanding coverages and what we’re going to get in the games,” Ruggs said at Tuesday’s media opportunity. “The whole group (of receivers) is getting better at that, paying more attention to the things we can do, more technical than just relying on skills.”
Most national observers are impressed with all four Alabama receivers (Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle) and their rapport with Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
“Tua puts the ball where it needs to be and (the) momentum of the ball carries us one way,” Ruggs said. “Sometimes it’s just fortunate enough to not have anybody in the lane.”
“I don’t think I need too much room. “We’re guys that are big on carrying the football. We can break a couple of tackles if we need to. So just a little bit of room.”
Ruggs is also Alabama’s fourth-leading rusher thanks to a 75-yard touchdown against New Mexico State. The play was designed as a pass, but Tagovailoa’s throw was deemed a lateral. The 75-yard anomaly will affect both passing yardage and receiving yardage statistics for the rest of the season.
Statistics are not foremost on Ruggs’ mind, though. His focus is on being a complete player — and that includes blocking.
“We try to take pride in blocking and getting our hands on bigger defenders,” Ruggs said. “So, when we do make a play and you see a guy with your jersey on make a block or chasing you downfield, it feels like the whole team made a play.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt