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Outstanding prep LB wants to play RB in college

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 2, 2010

TAMPA, FLA. (AP) - James Wilder Jr. looks and plays the part of No. 1 college football recruit in talent-rich Florida.

The powerfully built 6-foot-2, 220-pound prospect from Plant High School _ who's on The Associated Press South Region 25 list of top recruits _ is equally skilled at dominating games on offense and defense.

Watching the Class 5A state champions dismantling opponents in pursuit of another title can provide a good idea of why he's viewed as one of the nation's best high school running backs _ and maybe an even better linebacker.

On the Internet, there's a slew of video clips featuring the son of former NFL running back James Wilder Sr. Enough material to launch a debate on what position he should play on the next level at Florida State.

"He is, right now, the most destructive force on defense I've ever seen. He's a gamebreaker. He destroys the other team's game completely," coach Robert Weiner said.

Weiner said other teams and their players have to constantly worry where Wilder is on the field, giving his team's players a chance to make good plays.

Wilder has made it clear that he wants to play running back _ not linebacker, when he joins the Seminoles, who are No. 20 in the Top 25 preseason poll. It's the position many who evaluate prospects feel he may be best suited to play because of his size and strength.

This month, he trimmed his list of potential destinations to what he described as his "three running back schools" _ Florida, Georgia and Florida State, eventually settling on committing verbally to the Seminoles.

Wilder averaged 7.49 yards per carry while rushing for over just over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, his first as a high school running back.

The numbers would have been even more imposing if Wilder hadn't shared playing time with another back who gained over 900 yards or if Plant didn't also have a talented passer in quarterback Phillip Ely, who's 19-0 as a starter heading into his senior season.

Wilder, who had 19 sacks as a junior, said he's driven by wanting to impact games _ not statistics.

"I've been playing both ways my whole life, but I just fell in love with running back. I have more experience at linebacker, but honestly my passion is more on the offensive side. I feel like you can control the game more when you actually have the ball in your hands," he said.

Weiner said one of things that sets Wilder apart from other prospects with similar physical skills is effort.

"You look at such a talented athlete and sometimes no one sees beyond that. ... His talent is definitely surpassed by his effort," the coach said.

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