Squats are a great exercise for building leg strength. Leg strength is critical when accelerating off the line into a dead sprint. The more relative strength you have compared to your body, the faster you move. There comes a point however, when a 2% to 5% increase in your max squat becomes irrelevant due to the time it took to reach those percentages (weeks or months). That time would have been better served working speed drills. This is why speed increase from squats are more likely to happen for beginners or recreational sprinters more so than elite sprinters. This brings into question, how much strength is enough? A rule of thumb is that an individual should be able to squat 1.5 times their body weight. So if you weigh 180lbs, time would be better served doing other speed training drills, after you can squat 270lbs. What I see in a lot of my athletes is that they can squat the house, however it has little transfer, because when he/she is accelerating they produce more force vertically rather than horizontally. Aside from training muscles through squatting, you are also training the nervous system. The force production angle of a squat is 180 degrees vertical. When accelerating, the force production angle is 45 degrees vertical which causes horizontal motion. Due to improper training, running form and technique, achieving that 45 degree vertical force production angle is easier said than done.
To answer the question, "will make squats make you faster," I would say it heavily depends on your athletic level. The more advanced you are, the less that strength built from squats will transfer.
By Joshua Lewis (SAQ) Specialist
Pregame Fitness: Bozeman Speed and Performance Training