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Former University of South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is a big guy … but just how big has been a matter of some conjecture and controversy lately.

According to the University of South Carolina media guide, Jeffery was 6-foot-4, 229 pounds at the start of the 2011 season. He reportedly played a shade above that (we listed him at 6-foot-4, 233 pounds in our coverage), and recent internet rumors had him pushing the deuce-and-a-half mark (a.k.a. 250 pounds).

“Jeffery is a big-bodied pass-catcher with the size, athleticism and ball skills to create match-up problems on the perimeter,” NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks wrote recently. “He excels at posting up smaller defenders on vertical routes and is one of the best natural pass-catchers to enter the league in some time.”

Of course given the weight (and speed) concerns, the news wasn’t all good …

“In spite of his remarkable traits, Jeffery is not considered one of the top prospects due to questions about his fitness level (weight) and speed,” Brooks added.

For Jeffery to remain on the board as a late first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, it was widely believed that he needed to clock in at 220 pounds (or less) and run a 4.6 second time (or faster) in the 40-yard dash at this week’s 2012 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Well, so far, so good … Jeffery officially weighed in at 216 pounds at the combine (although he was measured at 6-foot-3, not 6-foot-4).

No word yet on his 40-yard dash time … although Jeffery has said that he hopes to run it in the 4.5-second range. If he hits that mark, look for him to be picked in the first round for sure.

Jeffery declared his intention to enter the NFL draft shortly after USC’s 30-13 win over Nebraska in the 2012 Capital One Bowl. In three years as a Gamecock, Jeffery caught 183 passes for a school-record 3,042 yards and 23 touchdowns – not bad for a guy who was once told by University of Southern California coach Lane Kiffin that he would wind up “pumping gas” if he came to play at South Carolina (ironically, Jeffery originally committed to play football at “USC West“).

After being held in check for much of his junior season, Jeffery exploded for a season-high 148 receiving yards in just three quarters of action against the Cornhuskers, including the “Hail Alshon” – a dramatic leaping grab and fully-extended dive into the end zone on the last play of the first half that gave USC a lead it would never relinquish.

While combine speed certainly matters, Jerry Rice – arguably the best wide receiver in NFL history – ran a 4.7 second 40-yard dash.

The fastest 40-yard time ever recorded at an NFL combine is 4.24 seconds – a mark achieved by Eastern Kentucky wide receiver Rondel Melendez in 1999 and again by Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson in 2008.

Melendez was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons but never played a down in the NFL – opting to become a runner instead. Johnson, on the other hand, has rushed for 5,645 yards in four NFL seasons – including a stellar 2009 campaign in which he became only the sixth NFL running back to eclipse the 2000-yard mark.

Former Clemson University wide receiver Jacoby Ford is one of four players (including Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey) who is tied for the second-fastest 40-yard dash time, 4.28 seconds.

UPDATE: Here’s a post from Alex Dunlap of Rosterwatch.com regarding Jeffery’s conditioning that includes a video clip of the “Hail Alshon” as well as this clip of Jeffery’s catches against Alabama in 2010 … 

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