According to Tim Daniels for Bleacher Report, speed is the most important part of college football because it is impossible to teach someone to run fast. However, if someone can already run fast, it is possible to teach him all of the other aspects of successful playing.
One example of the importance of speed is that both the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University sported linebackers in 2012 who were capable of running with the speed of wide receivers. Having enough players who are faster than average players allows coaches to develop speed-based offenses that are difficult for the other team to counter.
Speedier football players can also serve a variety of roles as needed, just as De'Anthony Thomas of the Oregon Ducks was only nominally a running back in 2012. Instead, his speed allowed him to run, catch and play special teams, turning him into a versatile playmaker rather than a running back marginalized into one position. Coaches who place an importance on recruiting speedier players may also have an easier time recruiting more players. These faster players can tear the defense of other teams apart because those defenses often rely on stronger, slower players who are unable to keep up or catch up with quicker new recruits.