Henry Ruggs III can run just about as fast as a car is allowed to drive on the University of Alabama campus, where the speed limit is 25 mph unless otherwise noted.
The Crimson Tide wide receiver has been clocked at 23 mph by the Catapult Sports GPS underneath his jersey. Not once, but twice. It happened during summer workouts and in the Missouri game earlier this season.
“You know, the guys, they’re kind of surprised by it,” Ruggs said. “But I feel like I need to be trying to get faster.”
Ruggs remembers his in-game speed was more like 23.27.
“I think without pads it’s probably like 23.4 or 5, something like that,” he said. “It went down a little bit. But once you get in the game, it doesn’t really make a difference because you’ve got adrenaline going.”
This season, Ruggs has caught 34 passes for 613 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 18.03 yards per reception and 55.73 yards per game. His longest catch was a 57-yarder.
The sophomore has played in all 11 of the Crimson Tide’s games.
“He has the ability sustain in practice, games, unusually well,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think that’s been something that with a few guys nicked up here in the last few weeks at that position has been very helpful to us.”
This past weekend against The Citadel, Ruggs had a game-high 114 receiving yards. There was a long 54-yard reception in there that looked like it could have ended in the end zone, but Ruggs said he got caught from behind at the 3-yard line.
His teammates have joked with him about that play.
“They were like, ‘Maybe you didn’t really run 23 miles per hour,’” Ruggs said.
Regardless, catching Ruggs is hard. That’s why Alabama linebacker Christian Miller attacks the 6-foot, 183-pound speedster in a different way.
“You’ve got to re-route the guy, especially as a linebacker,” said Miller, who’s 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds. “I’ve got to use my body to my advantage, my size. So, I try to get out there, re-route him, kind of get him off his path a little bit.”
Ruggs isn’t the Crimson Tide’s only weapon either.
Alabama has the second-best passing offense in the SEC, averaging 328 yards through the air per game. That’s good for No. 7 in the nation.
“It’s a hassle trying to guard all our receivers from Ruggs to (Jaylen) Waddle to Smitty (DeVonta Smith) to (Jerry) Jeudy,” UA defensive back Deionte Thompson said. “It’s hard for guys like us out there. It’s just hard.”
Jeudy leads the pack with an average of 91.09 receiving yards per game. He has also scored 10 touchdowns. Waddle follows with a 56.09 average and five scores. Ruggs’ marks put him at third in order.
Basically all of them are pretty good and fast.
“If it is a 40, it’d be a tight race,” Ruggs said. “But in the 100, I’d pull away from all of them.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.