TAMPA, Fla. – At 6 o'clock Wednesday morning, Tampa Plant High School running back James Wilder's cell phone was blowing up. It was Georgia tight end Orson Charles, a Plant High alum, making one last pitch for the Bulldogs.
"Oh my God," Wilder said. "They (Charles and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, also from Plant) was coming at me. But they were definitely telling me to go where my heart is, where I felt best."
And that was at Florida State.
Regarded as one of the nation's top recruits – or as Plant High coach Robert Weiner called him: "the most famous high school football player in the country" – Wilder announced during a news conference in the school's auditorium Wednesday evening that he was attending Florida State over Georgia and Florida.
Wilder said he felt most comfortable with the Seminoles, even if the perception nationally is that the SEC is a better conference.
"I wanted to get my decision over to focus on my team and this season," Wilder said. "I knew I wanted to stay close to my wonderful family and that left it down to Georgia, Florida and Florida State. They say the best schools are in the SEC and best competition is in the SEC, but, I mean, I felt more comfortable at an ACC school. It is what it is.
"They say the best athletes come out of the SEC, but just because I'm in the SEC it's not going to make me a better athlete. Even though it's the ACC, I'm going to 'ball out' regardless no matter where I'm at – even if I'm at the Ivy League. Wherever I'm at, I'm going to 'ball out.' "
First off I want to congratulate James Wilder Jr and wish him a healthy and productive senior season.
From a purely football aspect however this one is a head scratcher to me. Florida State hasn't seemed committed to the run since Jimbo Fisher got there. And from what I understand one of Wilder Jr's main sticking point with some teams was that they wanted him to play linebacker and he wanted to play running back. Georgia who was also in the running at the end supposedly, has definitely done a better job of both running the ball and developing NFL running backs in recent history. You would think that would have given them a leg up just from the on the field aspect.
Now there are a lot of other factors in play when a kid picks a school and I understand that. And obviously if he is good enough, as he himself said, Wilder Jr will thrive where ever he goes. But it will be interesting to see how he is used in Florida State's offense whenever he is eventually given an opportunity.