Steve Smith is the champion of the undersized wide receiver, and just about every aspiring wideout who hovers around Smith’s 5-foot-9 height mentions his name in the run-up to the NFL draft.
For Sacramento State’s DeAndre Carter – who actually looks up to Smith – it’s an apt comparison. At 5-8 and 186 pounds, Carter has not allowed his height to be a hindrance. If anything, it’s driven him to be a smarter, sharper and, like Smith, fiercer receiver.
“He walks around with a chip on his shoulder,” Carter said of Smith, the Ravens receiver who is entering his 15th NFL season and has been to five Pro Bowls. “And he makes sure they’re not going to push him around. And if you try to, he’s going to let you know about it.
“I get a little fire in myself from time to time in a game when someone tries to bully me a little bit. I make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Some speedy but undersized wideouts make it to the NFL because their college programs used spread offenses and fed them the ball on end-arounds, sweeps, short passes and other gimmicky plays.
Sac State used Carter as if he was a 6-5, 215-pound receiver. And he delivered as if was, too, catching 99 passes for 1,321 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. His reception total and yardage led the Football Championship Subdivision, and the 99 catches were second in Big Sky Conference history.
Carter also showed he could succeed against cornerbacks from bigger schools when he shined in practices for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game in January. He went against cornerbacks Cody Riggs from Notre Dame and Troy Hill from Oregon and generated as much buzz as anyone.
“He belongs,” former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz, who coached one of the squads, told ESPN that week. “He does. He belongs on somebody’s roster. He has been very impressive.”
Carter has spent this month trying to reinforce that notion. He worked out for the Arizona Cardinals in early April and will work out for the Raiders on Thursday and the 49ers on Friday. He is eligible for both teams’ pro days because he was born in San Jose and grew up in Fremont.
Carter realizes his first NFL job may be on special teams. He handled four punts last season, returning one 65 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to cap a comeback win over Portland State. He said he also is eager to show his worth as a gunner on special teams.
He and his former coaches are confident he can distinguish himself as a wide receiver if given the opportunity. Sac State offensive coordinator Paul Peterson said Carter was like a quarterback – someone who spent the week studying game film, knew every detail of his opponent and was adept at reading coverages.
“And he is so quick and so fast,” Peterson said. “He could juke you in a phone booth. His start and stop is phenomenal.”
Carter’s workout numbers are nearly the same as Smith’s in 2001. Both ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. Both reached 381/2 inches in the vertical jump. And Carter did 17 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Of the 44 receivers at the scouting combine this year – Carter was not invited – only four did more, and each of those players was at least 212 pounds.
Pound for pound, Peterson said, Carter was the strongest guy on the team
“You know, I don’t see him as a little guy,” he said. “Yeah, he’s short. But he’s a big target and he gets himself open. He’s going to separate himself. He’ll get a shot and they’re going to be well-pleased with him.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.
PLAYERS OF INTEREST
ON 49ERS’ PRO DAY
LS NATE BOYER, TEXAS
He grew up in Dublin, which makes him eligible. Boyer has one of the better stories among would-be draft picks after serving as a Green Beret in problem areas such as Darfur before arriving at Texas.
CB ALEX CARTER, STANFORD
At 6-0 and 196 pounds, he has good size for a cornerback and is among several Stanford players likely to be drafted in the middle rounds. The 49ers didn’t draft a Stanford player in the four seasons former Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh ran the team
S AKEEM KING, SAN JOSE STATE
King turned heads last month when, at 6-2 and 215 pounds, he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds. He began his stay at San Jose State as a receiver. NFL teams, notably including the Seattle Seahawks, are looking at him as a press cornerback.
DL TRAVIS RACITI, SAN JOSE STATE
He has good size (6-5, 285) and an excellent motor and could fit in as a defensive end in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense. He is viewed as a late pick on the draft’s final day or a priority free agent.
S JORDAN RICHARDS, STANFORD
The Folsom High School graduate is expected to be taken on the third day. Richards may not be as fast as some other top safeties, but he’s tough and so intelligent he earned the nickname “Coach Richards” at Stanford.
ILB A.J. TARPLEY, STANFORD
He was impressive at Stanford’s pro day last month. He also is familiar to 49ers linebackers coach Jason Tarver, who was the Cardinal’s defensive coordinator in 2011.