James Wilder Jr., a five-star recruit and consensus Top 5 national prospect, picked Florida State over Georgia and Florida during a heavily-attended, regionally-televised news conference Wednesday afternoon at Plant High School in Tampa.
“The FSU coaches were the big difference for me as far as my decision,” Wilder told reporters at the news conference. “Assistant coach Eddie Gran has helped put a lot of top running backs in the [National Football] League and that was very attractive to me.”
There had been reports as late as Wednesday morning that the 6-foot-2, 220-pound athlete, who intends to play running back in college, was going to select Georgia. And, dressed in black shirt with a red vest, it looked like that might be the case.
But as it turns out Wilder had been favoring coach Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles for a while. Late last month he blew off a scheduled trip to Gainesville for Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp in order to remain in Tallahassee on an unofficial visit at FSU.
“I made the decision three days ago,” Wilder said. “The reason I chose FSU was just being comfortable with everything in regards to FSU.”
Afterward, Wilder indicated Georgia’s Orson Charles and Aaron Murray made it tough on him.
“At 6 o’clock this morning Orson Charles was blowing me up (with texts),” Wilder told FanHouse.com. “Oh my God, [Charles and Murray] were coming at me. They were definitely telling me to go where my heart is, where I feel best. But they were definitely on me”
Wilder, who has as many 80 scholarship offers according to his coach, 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 Sr., has made it clear he wants 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.
Later Wednesday night Georgia lost out on another elite Florida recruit who had the Bulldogs as a finalists. Groveland, Fla.’s, Nick Waisome, rated the No. 2 cornerback in America according to ESPNU, chose the Gators over Florida and Georgia.