NEW PORT RICHEY —Two dozen or so Ridgewood Rams hit the practice field for the first drills of the spring, confirming the team indeed is more than just Glass Wilson. Ridgewood may not be a one-man show. But many opponents' eyes, and certainly those of college coaches, will be trained on the rising junior running back. USF has certainly noticed the speedy, slippery sophomore's skills. The Bulls recently presented Wilson with his first major college offer and though more are surely to come, this one was not casually received.
"It is a big deal," Wilson said. "My parents are season ticket holders to USF."
Watching Wilson run will be worth the ticket price for Pasco County prep fans. As a sophomore he ran for 1,500 yards, busting out with a 308-yard, four-TD performance in a wild 62-54 win over Gulf. That was part of a two-game win streak to end the season and carry the Rams into 2014 with high hopes.
"I'm really excited for next year. This spring, it's just to see what our weaknesses are," said Wilson, who says his areas of improvement include upping his speed and cutting ability.
For all of the spotlight that will land on Wilson (5-10, 190), Ridgewood coach Jay Fulmer says he is equipped to handle it. Parents Nicole and Glass IV have instilled a great humility in Wilson, and he's pretty good at handling pressure.
"He's been the class president since he was a freshman, and I think the last vote was dang near unanimous," Fulmer said. "Great kid, all you could ask for as a person and as a player."
Fulmer says he won't ask for Wilson to carry the full load. During a four-game stretch last year, Wilson was handed the ball at least 30 times, including 38 in a defeat of Wesley Chapel.
He'd prefer the carry range to land in the 20-25 area. And it helps that the Rams have a passing game. Nick Michaels threw for nearly 1,000 yards last year and will be a senior. His top target, Clarence Farria, will be a junior and budding tight end Dominick Mathis, now 6 feet 6, will be implemented.
Austin Dearsman (6-2, 305) will be the leading returner from an offensive line that Wilson heaps praise upon.
Ridgewood could not have picked a much tougher spring game opponent —Zephyrhills, which Fulmer describes as "loaded" but one the Rams competed well against in 7-on-7 play. The Bulldogs certainly have larger numbers than Ridgewood, but Fulmer's not concerned.
"I'm not worried about how many players I have, I'm worried about how many players with talent I have," he said. "I can take my 26 and beat your 80."
More top returning running backs
Nathan Johnson, Sunlake: Rumblings from the North Suncoast say the 5-foot-10, 195-pound bruiser might end up as one of the best running backs in Pasco County history. He rushed for 16 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards as a junior to earn conference player of the year honors and help the Seahawks get back to the playoffs.
Mondreas Lofton, Jefferson: His 791 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore were a nice addition to dynamic dual-threat quarterback Deiondre Porter. With Porter headed to Florida, don't be surprised if the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Lofton gets more touches— and touchdowns — this year.
Ray Ray McCloud III, Sickles: There's a reason that Florida, Oregon, Clemson and the national high school all-star games are all fighting for the services of the electric 5-foot-9, four-star recruit. He was among the state's leaders with 2,300 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior.
DeShawn Smith, Nature Coast: Hernando County's 100-meter champion had an ESPN-worthy performance in the Sharks' biggest win last fall, an upset over Pasco. He battled injuries but still racked up nine TDs and more than 700 rushing yards as a sophomore.
Daniel Wright, Springstead: The 5-foot-9 junior makes up for a lack of size with determination. He ran for more than 1,100 yards last fall and could become an even bigger part of the Eagles' offense this season.
Staff writer Matt Baker and Rodney Page contributed to this report.