If you believe UCLA's pro day numbers, then the Westwood campus must hold some sort of magic elixir.
Just two weeks after the NFL combine, four Bruin participants each improved their 40-yard dash times by roughly 0.20 seconds Tuesday. Not only that, but six players — including two who have been out of competitive football for a year — clocked sub-4.40-second times at Spaulding Field. As a reference point, there were just seven sub-4.40 times at the NFL combine last month.
The most glaring names: wide receiver Shaq Evans (4.32), who isn't known for blistering speed; running back Damien Thigpen (4.36), who missed most of his senior season due to injury; safety Stan McKay (4.38), known more for an on-field proposal than his play; and defensive back Brandon Sermons (4.39), who only started four games in his career.
Even 2013 prospects Aaron Hester and Jerry Johnson left with eye-popping numbers. Neither caught on with an NFL roster last season, but came back this week and recorded 4.37 and 4.31 showings, respectively.
Head coach Jim Mora understood that many might be dubious.
“People are going to hear that and go, 'That's insane. You don't have that many fast guys,'” he said. “Once again, these are electronic times. If I were out there scouting, I'd be like, 'Ehh, I don't know about that.' But once again, those are pretty true times.”
The glut of sub-4.40 times also cast some doubt on the other numbers as well. All-America linebacker Anthony Barr, a potential top-10 pick, reportedly ran a 4.47-second dash last spring on campus. That ticked up to 4.65 seconds in Indianapolis last month, then dropped back down to 4.45 on Tuesday.
Scouts typically rely on their own hand-timed numbers, so these most recent pro day numbers may not have much effect beyond creating headlines. That said, even the NFL's own 40-yard dash timing process is far from transparent.