April 8, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- O''Neal Wilder hopes the speed that helped him run a state best 48.3 seconds in the 400-meter dash at Carthage High School in 2006 will serve him well as a member of the Mississippi State football team.
After a knee injury sidelined him last season, Wilder will try to get back in shape to provide the Bulldogs with a valuable weapon in coach Dan Mullen''s spread offense.
"It''s hard to get back into the mix, but I think I''m getting back to where I was," Wilder said. "I just want to get my knee at 100 percent, and I''m working on it."
Wilder tried to impress Mullen on the field Tuesday in MSU''s eighth practice of the spring.
Concerned about a lack of playmakers on offense, Mullen believes Wilder can contribute if he can regain his speed.
"He''s got to get a lot stronger," Mullen said. "He doesn''t look real fast. They tell me he''s this world-class speed guy, but maybe when he builds his strength coming off that injury he''ll get back to that."
Wilder only played two years at Carthage, but it was enough for him to earn first-team, all-state recognition in Class 3A. He had more than 600 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns as a senior.
As a junior, Wilder had 18 catches for 428 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 23.8 yards per catch.
Mullen would like to have that big-play potential in his offense, but there''s just not enough healthy Bulldogs to reach that level right now.
"We''ve got so far to go offensively and it just keeps getting tougher," Mullen said. "Our second group has a walk-on quarterback that''s been on the team for three days and I don''t even know the third kid they had out there. It''s just tough duty that way."
n Mullen invited several members of local law enforcement to observe Tuesday''s practice and introduced several of them to the players.
Some of the officers had dinner with MSU players and coaches in the evening.
"I liked seeing them out here at practice and supporting us," Mullen said. "What we want to do is help them and get them to meet our players. So many times, people don''t get to meet our team in a personal setting."