This is the 48th in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 9 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order
A dynamic, five-star athlete, who was considered the best overall athlete in the country after playing both running back and linebacker at Tampa Plant High School...led Plant to the 5A state title game...selected to the U.S. Army All-American team as a senior and participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he scored the winning touchdown for the East...rushed for 1,597 yards and 22 touchdowns, and had 75 tackles and eight sacks as a senior...selected All-USA first team defense by USA Today...ranked as the No. 2 running back and No. 11 player nationally by Rivals.com...ranked as the No. 3 outside linebacker and the No. 29 overall player by Scout.com...rated the No. 29 player on the ESPN 150 and the No. 4 overall athlete in the nation...No. 7 on the Sporting News Top 100 for 2011...rated a five-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com...Tampa Tribune's All-Hillsborough County First Team as a senior...No. 1 on Bill Buchalter's 2011 Florida Top 100 for the Orlando Sentinel...No. 7 on Mobile Press-Register Super Southeast 120...member of the Florida Times-Union's Super 75 where he was rated as the No. 1 overall athlete...2010 U.S. Air Force All-American...second team defense by MaxPreps...No. 2 on Tom Lemming's MaxPreps.com Top 100...as a junior helped Plant to a 5A state title after rushing for 1,004 yards (7.49 per carry) and 15 touchdowns, while registering 136 tackles (66 solo) and 19 sacks on defense...earned First Team All-State honors for 5A classification as a junior...as a sophomore, registered 145 total tackles with 62 solo and 15 sacks and was selected All-Hillsborough County First Team, FSWA Second Team 5A All-State and All-Suncoast Second Team...son of former Buccaneers running back James Wilder...born April 14, 1992.
Part of the reason I elected not to debut this list in any specific order is to allow myself a chance to save players about whom I had questions for last.
James Wilder's role in 2012 still isn't all that clear, but I don't expect to gain any additional intel on him before this countdown concludes. Thus, today is his day. And our staff has very varied opinions on him.
Wilder missed much of spring due to his arrest for trying to intervene between an officer and his girlfriend, whom the officer was attempting to arrest and the subsequent violation of his probation for reportedly blowing a .01, a number that many believed was not a violation at all because it was within the margin of error, apparently.
All of that is now behind him.
Some say that Wilder should be a linebacker. Others say he is just fine at running back. All agree he is a freakish athlete.
And for 2012, there is no doubt that he is playing running back. FSU does not have the depth to move him elsewhere. Florida State has only two other scholarship tailbacks in Devonta Freeman and Chris Thompson, both of whom have remarkably returned from back injuries. And while not technically a tailback, we previously profiled that the slimmed down Lonnie Pryor has been working a good bit at tailback and is prepared to play the position as needed. Freshman Mario Pender will miss the year with a "groin injury" requiring surgery.
Wilder averaged 4.6 yards/carry on 45 carries for 160 rushing yards in 2012. He did not play many non-garbage time snaps.
It's difficult to evaluate Wilder as a running back based on what we've seen so far in his career, because of his limited reps and the limited holes through which he has had to run. But when he did have holes to run through, he often didn't recognize them, instead slamming into the backs of his linemen. It was quite comical and became a bit of a running joke for readers in the comment section.
He did, however, have a few nice runs in spring. That was encouraging.
Could Wilder bust out in 2012? Certainly. I'm just not going to predict it. There are too many unknowns with his game. And as far as we've heard, Wilder has not torn it up in camp. But we haven't heard anything overly negative about him, either.
He enters the season as the No. 3 running back, and the No. 1 back in goal line and short yardage situations.
For Wilder to get on the field, he'll have to improve the things discussed above. He'll also have to show the ability to block in blitz pickup. Certainly, if he knows who to block, he'll get it done, meaning the issue is one of attention to detail, focus and understanding.
We also don't yet know how much of a threat, if at all, Wilder would be catching the football.
But we do know that he capable of some tough physical running. Will it be effective, tough physical running? That's the question.
Wilder needs to remember that his role as a backup is very important. The two guys in front of him are coming off fairly major back injuries! The chance he is called upon to play major minutes, given the injury history of the two in front of him, is much higher than if he was third string behind two players without such a history.
Remember though, his signing signified Florida State as a destination for many of the kids in his year and the classes of 2012 and 2013. And he's certainly better as Florida State's reserve running back than he is as Florida's starting outside linebacker.
How do you think Wilder will play in 2012? Why do you think this?