Our focus is still on the Class of 2011, but if a this afternoon's proclamation by Rivals.com is any indication, next year's top prospect in the nation might be a familiar name -- Plant RB/DE James Wilder Jr.
The rankings for the Class of 2012 will start rolling out shortly after Wednesday's signing day, but Rivals.com named Wilder, the Times All-Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year, as its Junior of the Year.
Rivals judgment was greatly impacted by Wilder's MVP performance at the U.S. Army All-American Combine (which is a Rivals event).
"It seems like he has a really good attitude, and I like the idea he tried out at more positions than anybody else at the combine," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every said. "He loved the challenge of going against the big guys, and he showed a lot of power and strength. He also seems like a really, really nice kid. Here's a kid who could be full of himself, but he doesn't come across that way."
Some of the top programs in the nation disagree about where he best fits in college -- which is more of a tribute to his well-roundedness as a player. Miami is recruiting him as a running back, he said at the combine that Miami would be his leader with Georgia, Florida and Tennessee also involved. Florida is recruiting him as a linebacker. If the Plant star settles on running back, he said at the combine that Georgia, Florida State and Tennessee all offered early, and he also owns offers from Clemson, North Carolina and Missouri, among others.
The list of past players who were recoginized as the Junior of the Year -- which includes Seantrel Henderson, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor, Jimmy Clausen and Percy Harvin -- are an indicator Wilder will be a top national prospect next year and have a promising football future.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (email@example.com)