James Wilder down to three as decision day approaches

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Wed. August 11, 2010 | Eduardo A. Encina

WilderTAMPA – After two of his Plant teammates made their college commitments known Wednesday evening, Panthers running back/defensive end James Wilder Jr. thought to himself out loud, asking himself how he should make his decision known.

 “Should I go with the tie, or the hat?” he said, later pondering a free-style rap in his announcement speech.

As of now, one thing’s for sure about the Panthers’ five-start recruit’s commitment: It will come next Wednesday, August 18. Exactly where and when are details still being worked out. Wilder said ESPN would like to broadcast his announcement live from the WEDU studios in Tampa, but Wilder said he’d rather have it in Plant’s gymnasium so more people can attend.

“Everyone here’s been there for me,” Wilder said. “They’ve been there watching practices, watching games. They deserve to come and see me.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Wilder, ranked the No. 3 overall recruit in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 1 prospect by MaxPreps, said he still hasn’t made up his mind, but that he is down to three schools – Florida, Florida State and Georgia.

I’ve slept on it a lot,” Wilder said. “Today I’ll have FSU in the lead, tomorrow I’ll have UF and in three days I’ll have Georgia. I just have to make sure I think a lot about it. I’ve still got a lot of thinking to do in the last seven days.”

Wilder said he’s eliminated Alabama from consideration, even though Plant teammate Phillip Ely, the Panthers’ 19-0 starting quarterback, committed to the Crimson Tide on Wednesday. Alabama made Ely an offer secretly three weeks ago.

“I was pretty shocked about that,” Wilder said. “They were one of my top schools. I’ve already called (Alabama) and told them I have my top three.

“That could have been a very big factor if he would have told me that, but they want to keep secrets,” Wilder said jokingly. “I was trying to get it out of his mom and everywhere. I thought it was going to be Wake Forest or LSU. But I’m going to stick with my three.”

Wilder said he’d like to make another visit to each of his final three schools by Wednesday. He said he’s definitely going to Florida and Florida State – because they’re within driving distance – and would like to fit in one last trip to Georgia.

“It’s going to be about comfortability,” Wilder said. “That’s going to be the main thing. The football part is going to take care of itself. I think if you’re a good football player no matter where you are you’re going to do your thing regardless. It where I’m most comfortable, because that’s where I’m going to be living, that’s where I’m going to be tutoring, that’s where I’m going to be playing. That’s where I’m going to be doing my schooling, that’s where I’m going to be sleeping at night, eating for the next four year.”

All three schools are recruiting Wilder as a running back, and Wilder said he’s made it clear that’s where he wants to play in college.

Another decision to make: how he plans to make his announcement.

“I’ve been writing stuff down, just so when I get up there I don’t start talking about stupid stuff,” Wilder said with a smile. “I’ll probably throw a few jokes in there. I’m always laughing and joking around.”

-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (eencina@sptimes.com)

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