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Deering's speed may endear him to NFL teams

Editor's note: With the NFL draft continuing through today and Saturday, the Times continues to examine the possibilities of several late-round local prospects. Today, we chronicle the chances of former Leto High defensive back Jeremy Deering and former Plant High running back James Wilder Jr.

When all the draft analysts toss out numbers, there is no more recognizable number than a prospect's 40-yard dash time.

It's the appreciable benchmark even the most casual fan takes into account.

Common logic states speed can't be taught.

So the name Jeremy Deering has risen among the so-called draftniks.

"I wrote up on my wall the number 4.4 because that's what I wanted to run," Deering said. "I knew that was possible. But I also thought getting below that wasn't out of the question."

The former Leto High product dazzled scouts by running a blistering 4.33 at his Rutgers pro day in March. Had he run that at the NFL combine, Deering's mark would have tied him for second fastest.

But he didn't get an invite to the combine.

"No, I really wouldn't say disappointed (about not being invited to the combine)," Deering said. "I knew I'd get my chance at pro day. I wasn't worried."

But for as many answers as Deering's speed provides, a host of questions remain. During his time at Rutgers, Deering bounced around from wildcat quarterback to running back to wide receiver to kick returner before switching to safety for his senior season.

"Back (at Leto) I always played multiple positions, so I was kind of used to that," Deering said. "It just required me to do some more studying, some more attention to detail. But I'm a pretty bright guy, so I was able to get it all down pretty well."

Deering said playing all over the field prior to settling in at safety in his final year at Rutgers made the transition to defense easier.

"Since I had done all those things on offense, it helped me with understanding the defensive concepts," he said. "I think I was ahead of most of the defensive backs in that regard. It was just a matter of looking at the game form a different angle."

However the constant position shuffling gave NFL scouts only snippets of tape on Deering rather than multiple years of film at one position. Deering chose his words carefully when asked if he wished if the coaching staff would have kept him at one spot.

"I don't want to comment on that. I just tried to show what I could do at whatever position I played," he said. "I just wanted to be on the field playing. I don't dwell on (switching positions) because I think everything happens for a reason."

The 6-foor-1, 210-pounder is currently ranked as the 28th best free safety according to nfldraftscout.com and if that rating is close to accurate, Deering likely won't hear his name called.

But he also won't have to look far for inspiration. Former Riverview running-back-turned-safety Jahleel Addae went undrafted last year but signed as a free agent with San Diego. By season's end, Addae was starting for the Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

"I've had some very positive feedback from the teams I have worked out for," Deering said. All I'm hoping for is that one opportunity, that one shot.

Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

.fast facts

James Wilder Jr.

Position: Running back

College: Florida State

High school: Plant

Coming out of Plant, many questioned whether James Wilder Jr. should play running back or linebacker at FSU. Many pointed to Wilder's speed — or lack thereof — as making him more suited to be a ballstopper.

And Wilder did little to help his cause at the NFL combine.

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Wilder, son of former Bucs' running back James Wilder, ran a disappointing 4.86 40-yard dash at the combine, confirming fears that he may be too slow to play RB at the NFL level. Wilder's time was 32nd best among running backs at the combine, with the top finisher coming in at 4.26.

However Wilder helped his draft stock at FSU's pro day when he reportedly ran a much-improved 4.65. Others reportedly clocked him at 4.56.

Wilder, who declared for the draft after choosing to forgo his senior season, also has some other things working against him. Wilder has been cited four times for driving infractions, including an April arrest in Tampa for failure to appear in court for one of those violations. He was also arrested and pleaded no contest to resisting an officer without violence in 2012.

Another troubling aspect is that Wilder was never a true full-time starter at FSU. In three seasons, Wilder ran for 1,358 yards and 20 TDs, but he did post an impressive 7 yards per carry in 2013.

Deering's speed may endear him to NFL teams 05/08/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:59am]
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