SEC speed is not a myth.

Year in and year out, the conference is loaded with the best athletes in the nation, a big part of the reason so many SEC players move onto the NFL.

SEC players love to talk about the speed the conference has, both in terms of how fast the game flies at them on the field and how darn fast the players actually are. It might irk folks from other conferences, but its hard to argue with the results and what you see every fall Saturday.

Running back is certainly one position where SEC players need that speed. If they don’t hit the hole at top speed, there’s a good chance that hole won’t be there a split-second later. Even guys who seem a step slow compared to their peers around the conference still clock in with NFL-ready 40-yard dash times in testing during and after their college careers.

Who are the fastest big-time contributors at running back heading into this fall?

Kenyan Drake, Alabama — Alabama lost one of its biggest big-play threats midway through last season to a broken leg, but Nick Saban has made it sound like Drake is back at full speed and hasn’t lost a step. Having reportedly been previously clocked at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Drake apparently clocked a 4.4-second run during Alabama’s testing earlier this spring, just six months after his nasty injury. Drake will be the Crimson Tide’s most versatile weapon this fall, thanks in part to his ability to run right past would-be tacklers.

Stanley “Boom” Williams, Kentucky — This rising sophomore more than earned his nickname with a handful of explosive plays in his debut season. Williams had three touchdown runs of 50-plus yards, leaving defenders in his dust. Considering that he’s been clocked running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, possibly as fast as 4.28 seconds (!), that shouldn’t come as a shock. As Williams learns to harness his speed, he’ll become an even deadlier every-down weapon for a growing Wildcats team.

Leonard Fournette, LSU — It’s not really fair for one of the most physically imposing backs in the SEC to be one of the conference’s fastest as well, is it? That’s too bad for the rest of the conference, because Fournette is as big, strong and fast as they come. Coming out of high school, the 6-foot-1, 230 pounder reportedly ran in the 4.35-second range in the 40, and he showed off that speed on the big stage last season. Against Notre Dame in LSU’s bowl game, he ripped off a 100-yard kickoff return on which he galloped past everyone and followed it up with an 89-yard run. With Fournette, defenders have to pick their poison: get run over, or watch him run past you.

David Williams, South Carolina — We still haven’t seen much from this burner out of Philadelphia, but Williams has blazing speed to match any back in the conference. He tested second on the team last year, running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash in spring workouts, and there’s no reason to think he’s going to slow down anytime soon. As his role expands heading into his redshirt sophomore year, the SEC will get to see the player who averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in high school.

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee — Like Fournette, Hurd’s massive frame belies his blinding speed. At 6-foot-3 and more than 220 pounds, there aren’t a lot of running backs built like Hurd. There aren’t many that run like him, either. Before enrolling at Tennessee, he reportedly clocked a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. Hurd still runs a bit too upright like a track star, but as he improves his form he’ll become an even scarier force.