TAMPA — Plant RB/DE/LB James Wilder Jr. will probably take his recruiting journey right down to the wire, but a short list should be emerging this summer.
Wilder has already been quoted a few times as saying his top five teams are Florida, FSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, but he came off that last week.
"I'm so-so there, I'm pretty open," he said. "I want to take more visits before I start judging a top five."
Does that mean Wilder has changed his mind? Probably not.
Most likely, he was told it's bad business at this point in the game to be ruling out anybody. Colleges and coaches are sensitive in this process, and lists make them nervous.
"Pretty much … I probably shouldn't do that," he laughed.
Wilder seems more reluctant to come off his insistence on playing running back, though. Again, those around him would prefer he stay mum on that topic — he has been offered scholarships by all as a linebacker — and he tried to walk back from it a little, but clearly his heart is set on running the ball. He said it has always been his preference, but until last year he really never got the opportunity to do it full time.
His three-game stretch in the playoffs — vs. Countryside, Lakeland and Manatee — featured a highlight video run or two in each game, as well as big yardage and touchdowns. If anything, Wilder's most memorable football moments, the ones that have earned him his greatest fame, are those playoff carries.
So while on one hand he says, "I don't really know yet. I'm on the running back side," on the other he says schools that run the ball ultimately have the inside track to his signature.
So when it comes to Wilder and his future, we can all pretty much agree with him when he says: "I think I should play what I want to play."
SOMEBODY'S WATCHING: You can debate the merits of trickle-down economics, but there is no debate about the effect of trickle-down recruiting. Just ask Robinson's Richie Reay.
Last week, Reay picked up his first scholarship offer, from Florida International, after an FIU coach saw him practice for 15 minutes. He wasn't there to watch Reay in particular but rather the bevy of top recruits the Knights' roster boasts, such as receivers Frankie Williams and Ruben Gonzalez, linebacker Tevin Newman and running back J.J. Hubbard.
"We've had some success here with our juniors, and as a result colleges are out here watching," Robinson coach Mike DePue said. "That's a great opportunity for someone else."
Reay, who was an out-of-shape 213 pounds last summer before hitting the gym and packing on 40 pounds of muscle, said he was counting on getting noticed by coaches that were out to see other players.
"When I knew that Ruben and Frankie were going to get recruited, I was thrilled," he said.
Spring is also a golden time for underclassmen on stacked teams to get noticed. Sophomores such as Jefferson's Tyriq McCord (South Carolina verbal last week), Plant's Antonio Crawford and Plant City's Dazmond Patterson really have a chance to land on some big-time radars.
"You have to go hard every practice, and even harder during games, but the colleges will be out there watching," Reay said.
OBSERVATIONS: Chamberlain's Reshay Hubbard has a nice middle linebacker build, and while he needs to get quicker and faster, he has enough speed that he should be a threat at fullback this season as well.
Plant's Drew Madhu, a 6-1, 185-pound defensive back, is an excellent athlete and looks like a future standout, and his coaches think he can be "special."
Carrollwood Day School's Mak Djulbegovic is getting some Division I-A interest. He is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and raw. But with former Bucs coach Jon Gruden coaching him up this season, he could evolve into a solid prospect.