Those of you that live in Tampa know about Plant. Chances are those of you that follow college football recruiting do too. One of the better public high schools in the area, Plant has had its fair share of big names in the football world and continues to produce multiple FBS-caliber athletes every year.
You probably remember Mike Williams as the USC star that attempted to leave the Trojans after two years only to be denied entrance into the draft by the NFL. Before dominating defensive backs in college and then unfortunately not doing the same in the professional ranks, Williams was a stud wide receiver at Plant. One that Florida wanted as a tight end (insert head smack).
Robert Marve will be suiting up for Purdue this fall. You’ll recall Marve being touted as the next star signal caller at Miami. Ultimately, things didn’t go his way with the Hurricanes and he transferred, but before all of that, Marve was a record-setting QB at Plant.
After Marve came quarterback Aaron Murray and one of his favorite targets tight end Orson Charles. Florida wanted both, but the duo ended up together at Georgia. Murray’s choice was a surprise to some and Charles earned notoriety for breaking one of the Gators’ national championship trophies. Both stared at Plant before becoming Bulldogs.
Plant has produced plenty of talent over the years, but among the bigger names you’ll notice a common theme. None of them were or are Gators. Williams may have been a recruiting gaff on Florida’s part, but his size makes it at least somewhat understandable as to why a school might want him to play TE. Marve would have had to sit behind Tim Tebow just as long as John Brantley did and then compete with Brantley for the starting job. A competition he would have lost. In the end, Murray made the right decision. He wanted to play as soon as possible. Entering his redshirt freshman year, he’s the Georgia starter. And Charles may be the one that really got away. A player with his abilities and talents would have fit into the Florida offense nicely and he would have seen playing time quickly. The Gators were in it with all of them, but ended up striking out each time.
Now comes along the biggest name of them all. James Wilder Jr. is a running back/defensive end/linebacker hybrid who Rivals.com ranks as the third-best prospect in the entire nation. Most players listed as athletes have either played multiple positions well but none great or have excelled at one but may project to another in college. Wilder isn’t like that. He would be in the top 10 (and possibly top five) of any of the three positions he could play at the next level.
Wilder has made it known that he wants to play running back or at the very least get a shot at the position. He could end up at linebacker – the position most think he is best suited for in the long run – eventually, but he wants a shot at carrying the ball wherever he goes. Initially, Miami was mentioned as his top school if he played offense and Florida came in at number one if he ended up on defense. That may now be blurred.
This past week, Wilder took in both Florida and FSU. He visited the Gators and Seminoles along with his head coach and several teammates. Wilder hoped to learn even more about two of the programs high on his list. With only a few weeks until he makes his decision (Wilder is rumored to be announcing his selection in July), the star athlete wanted to get another look at two schools he’s extremely familiar with.
Wilder liked both
, but that’s no surprise. What is, though, is that the Gators recently picked up a commitment from a Tampa fullback. Tampa Catholic’s Hunter Joyer
may be an indication that Florida is looking to beef up its running game. If so, they could be doing it in part for a player with Wilder’s talents. A capable blocking back coming in with one of the top rushers in the nation.
And what about those teammates that accompanied Wilder? Well, both are on Florida’s radar screen
. Quarterback Phillip Ely
(like the past few Plant QBs) already has offers from more than 20 schools. There’s no guarantee he’ll receive one from the Gators since they aren’t sure if they’ll go after another passer, but if they do, Ely could be near or at the top of their list. The other was offensive lineman Tony Posada
who also has numerous offers at this point. Florida isn’t among them, but could be in time. A prospect of Wilder’s talent will end up wherever he wants, but having teammates onboard as well never hurts.
If this is the year Florida finally pulls in a big name from Plant, Wilder’s is big enough to make the Gators forget all those of the past. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until signing day to find out his decision and if the Plant pipeline will add a stop at Florida.