The general consensus has been that mega-prospect James Wilder Jr. of Tampa will commit to Florida or Florida State with Georgia coming in a distant third when he finally makes his choice public at a news conference Wednesday evening.
But all that began change late in the day Tuesday after an Internet report surfaced that the 6-foot-2, 220-pound athlete was actually favoring the Bulldogs. Citing sources, Brett McMurphy, a veteran reporter who writes for FanHouse.com, reports that Wilder has already made up his mind to commit to Georgia. Wilder makes his announcement at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Plant High School Auditorium.
Wrote McMurphy: “Barring a last-minute change of heart, Tampa Plant High School running back James Wilder Jr., considered among the nation’s top high school football recruits, will attend Georgia next season, sources told FanHouse.”
Neither Wilder nor Plant coach Robert Weiner could be reached to confirm or deny the report.
Wilder — who reportedly has in the neighborhood of 80 scholarship offers — is an all-around athlete who could play running back, linebacker or defensive end in college. As a result, he’s all over the map in recruiting rankings. MaxPreps.com rates him the No. 1 overall recruit in America while Rivals.com ranks him No. 3 overall. Scout.com considers him the nation’s No. 1-ranked linebacker in the nation and ESPNU has him as No. 2-ranked athlete.
But Wilder, the son of the Tampa Bay Bucs’ all-time leader rusher James Wilder, has been open in his desire to play running back in college. Last season, he rushed for 1,004 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a running back while leading Plant to the Class 5A state championship. Wilder had 136 tackles and 19 sacks as a linebacker and defensive end.
McMurphy is a respected reporter who has been covering college athletics for a long time. According to his FanHouse bio, he joined the Internet sports news outlet in 2009 as a senior college football and basketball writer. Before that he spent 22 years at The Tampa Tribune and he has been covering college athletics since 1992. He still lives in Tampa.
Should Wilder choose Georgia, he’ll become the third straight high-profile recruit to come to Athens from the Tampa’s powerhouse program. Sophomore tight end Orson Charles and redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, both of whom have been heavily involved in recruiting Wilder for the Bulldogs, also starred at Plant.
Wilder’s news conference is going be televised by the Bright House Sports Network (Ch. 47), a Tampa-based cable television outfit. They’re producing a 30-minute show that will precede the announcement called “James Wilder Jr.: The Decision.”