Thursday, July 25, 2013
FSU Countdown: No. 7 James Wilder Jr.
By David M. Hale
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.
Much is expected from Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. after a strong sophomore season.
What he's done: Wilder's first year at Florida State went about as poorly as possible. On the field, he found only limited playing time in spite of a dearth of healthy bodies around him. Off it, he was in nearly constant trouble, with multiple arrests and legal wrangling. But Wilder promised things would be different in 2012, and he delivered in spades. The former five-star recruit finished 11th in the ACC in rushing yards (635), fifth in yards-per-carry (5.77), and third in rushing touchdowns (11) while developing into a threat out of the backfield and a leader on the sideline.
Where he's at: With EJ Manuel, Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor now gone to the NFL, Florida State's once crowded backfield now clearly belongs to Wilder and fellow junior Devonta Freeman. But while Freeman's personality is more reserved, Wilder's boisterous attitude quickly made him the de facto leader for the offense this spring. It's a role he's relished, and he's made it clear he expects big things from himself and his teammates in 2013. A minor injury ended his spring early, but not after he'd wowed coaches and teammates with his hard running in short-yardage situations and his effusive personality in the huddle.
What's to come: As it stands, Jimbo Fisher has offered no clear insight as to which tailback will get the bulk of the carries, but Wilder's determined running style and versatility as a blocker and receiver offers ample cause to believe a breakout season is coming. Wilder was consistent throughout the 2012 season, but his opportunities were limited at times. That won't be the case this season, which when paired with a veteran offensive line, offers some hope that this year, Wilder finally puts an end to Florida State's 16-year drought of 1,000-yard runners.