O'Neal Wilder's Game Is Built On Speed

When you see true freshman O'Neal Wilder for the first time, the two things you notice about him are how tall and lean he is. But what you don't see is something you immediately notice when he takes off from the line of scrimmage. And that is his exceptional speed and quickness, the two things Mississippi State wide receivers coach Pat Washington loves about this talented newcomer.

"He can run and close a cushion really fast. While he's raw and is still learning to play fundamental football, you can't coach speed, and he has that," said Washington.

He's also quick for a tall guy - Wilder is 6-4 tall - which was a surprise to Washington.

"For a tall guy and a 400 meter guy he has a short stride," said Washington. "I was thinking he was going to be a long strider which would make it difficult for him to get in and out of his cuts. But because of his short stride, he's quicker and change directions a lot better than I thought he would."

To say Washington is happy that Wilder is participating in wide receivers drills for him this spring would be an understatement. But he wasn't sure it was going to happen due to Wilder's academic situation coming out of high school.

"I didn't do what I needed to do in high school, so I had to sit out the fall," said Wilder, who sat out the fall semester to improve his ACT score. "It was difficult, but I had to do it."

And not only was he getting his academics in order, but he was also working on improving his football skills.

"I worked out on my own, and I went back home and got a high school quarterback to throw to me," said Wilder, who has only played football two years prior to this spring.

Since he's been at State he has worked on a couple of things. And he's seeing a lot of improvement in those two areas.

"I've improved the most running routes and catching the ball," said Wilder.

Another area that he is working hard on is his physical strength. While tall and speedy, he's very lean, to the point of being skinny. But coach Washington doesn't see that as too much of a disadvantage.

"He has core strength," said Washington. "He may not be able to bench press 400 pounds, but he has enough strength inside of him that allows him to get off press coverage and play the game."

And he's also got a very good work ethic to go along with his immense talent.

"(College football) is hard, but you have to work your butt off everyday if you want to get better," said Wilder.

Speed, core strength, a hard worker. Pat Washington says it best when describing his talented newcomer.

"He is a hard worker, he's conscientious, has raw talent and can catch the ball well. He has a lot of potential to be a really good player," said Washington, who coached eleven NFL draft picks while the wide receivers coach at the University of Tennessee.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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