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The Prospector: Tampa Plant's James Wilder lives chaotic life of big-time college football prospect

Tampa Plant's James Wilder Jr. knew things were going to get a bit hectic with him being one of the nation's top college football recruits for the class of 2011.

But hectic turned to crazy earlier this week, when a faux e-mail address -- jwild35@yahoo.com -- was used to send former ESPN recruiting guru JC Shurburtt, now of 247sports.com, an e-mail saying Wilder had committed to Florida. The Fake Wilder, that is. After Shurburtt tweeted the news on Twitter, he then went to work to get more information and figured out soon afterward the e-mail was a fraud.

Shurburtt then followed that Twitter post with two more: "I will caution you I am trying to confirm the James Wilder e-mail. This very well could be a hoax." And then shortly after that, "Reliable sources say the e-mail is false."

And so it goes with the territory. You're not BIG TIME until someone impersonates you. Wilder did not return a phone call Wednesday night, further proof things have gotten a bit out of control for the 6-foot-2, 223-pound specimen of a RB/LB. He used to actually answer his phone.

We could probably knock that linebacker tag off the end of Wilder's position. Though he plays both sides of the ball for Plant, Wilder has made it clear he wants to play running back in college, despite many schools' desire to have him on the defensive side of the ball.

Many people have said Wilder is a lock to commit to the Florida Gators, and many of those same people likely have a Gator polo or two in their closet. But Plant coach Robert Weiner told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Thursday, not so fast.

Wilder has narrowed nearly 90 scholarship offers down to a final five: Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Georgia and Georgia Tech. The latter two of which he will visit today and Saturday. USC could also be a late entrant into the mix.

"He really doesn't know that yet," Weiner told Towers, adding that Georgia and Georgia Tech are considered strong options for Wilder. "He wouldn't make that long of a trip if there wasn't a real chance. He wants to give them a good look."

Wilder ranks as the No. 1 player in state in the Sentinel's Florida Top 100 by Bill Bill Buchalter, while ESPNU also has him ranked No. 1 -- in the country.

Florida could very well be the leading candidate, as Wilder has not let on his order of preference.

Most people consider the Gators to be a team of the spread, which has been somewhat unappealing to bigger backs. UF has not had a "power back" since Urban Meyer's arrival for the 2005 season. But anyone ever heard of Tim Tebow? Yeah, that guy. The quarterback was the "power back" for the Gators since 2006 before moving on to the NFL's Denver Broncos in the April NFL Draft.

Georgia Tech has had some success in the power running game, with Jonathan Dwyer being the big guy the past two seasons. Georgia has shown an ability to adapt to its personnel and an offense around a player like Wilder would certainly be a welcome addition. Meanwhile, Florida State, which would love to have that kind of talent, big or small, and Alabama have apparently fallen off the pace of the other three.

As for USC, well, Lane Kiffin is probably too busy signing scholarship releases to get any recruiting done, but watch out. Floridians know what the former Tennessee coach can pull off, legal or not.

Wilder wanted to make his decision before the summer was over. If Georgia and Georgia Tech trips are solely for crossing them off his list, then the Gators could very well have landed the top prospect in Meyer's tenure.

Wilder will be in Orlando next week for the ESPN Rise Champion Gridiron Kings 7-on-7 tournament, where 65 of the nation's top players converge on ESPN's Wide World of Sports.

Perhaps by then Wilder will have a clearer view of what he sees in his future.

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@orlandosentinel.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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