Next week will mark the end of what has been a very long ride for Gator recruiting enthusiasts.
On Aug. 18, Tampa Plant athlete James Wilder Jr. is set to announce his college decision, with Florida, Florida State and Georgia his final three schools. Gator fans have been drooling over Wilder’s highlights for more than a year and have desperately wanted him to be a part of Florida’s 2011 class.
Groveland South Lake cornerback Nick Waisome is also expected to announce the same day on ESPNU. Florida, Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia and LSU are his final schools.
Florida has been high on both players from the beginning and both have had the Gators near the top of their lists for some time.
What appeared to be a day that would become a huge recruiting boost for Florida, now seems to have lost some of its luster. Many still believe that Waisome is leaning toward Florida, but neither he nor his position coach, Terrance Larmond, would reveal much. Waisome is very close to Florida’s coaching staff and even after cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford left, he still kept a strong bond with safeties coach Chuck Heater.
Waisome, one of the top corners in the country, has been to Florida plenty of times in the last year, so he’s very familiar with Florida’s program. If I had a prediction for Wednesday night, I’d go with Waisome choosing Florida. FSU is Florida’s closest competition.
As for Wilder, things have changed drastically. Florida appeared to be the leader for some time, but the fact that the staff originally recruited him as a linebacker made his recruitment a bit shaky. But when the nation’s top athlete wants to play a different position, you make it possible, and that’s what Florida did when the staff started recruiting him as a running back.
Though linebacker seems to be in his future regardless, Wilder is passionate about playing running back in college, even if he figures to grow much more while on campus. He’s already 6-foot-2, 220 pounds.
With only days left until his announcement, FSU has taken the lead, a source with knowledge of the situation told me earlier this week. FSU took over as Wilder’s leader the weekend of Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp when he and his family stayed in Tallahassee longer than expected for an unofficial visit. The same source also said that Florida’s communication with Wilder has slowed since then and the source be would “shocked” if Wilder didn’t commit to FSU next week.
While Wilder could be leaning more and more toward FSU, there’s still time for Florida or Georgia to make a last-minute move. Then again, it is recruiting and a verbal today could mean nothing tomorrow.
While speaking with Sammamish, Wash., Skyline wide receiver Kasen Williams at the 2010 Gridiron Kings tournament, he said that even though Florida is thousands of miles away, he’s still very interested in coming to Gainesville for a visit.
He’s had Florida on his list of top schools for a while and said that he’s looking to narrow his list down to five schools before his high school season begins. Florida is expected to be one of those schools. However, Florida’s chances seem slim of landing him if he never makes it to town and as of now, he’s unsure if he’ll have the chance to visit.
Williams has strong ties to Washington, where his parents went to school, and the word is that the Huskies will be hard to beat.
Still, if he gets on Florida’s campus, things could change.
Seferian-Jenkins cuts Gators
After making a brief appearance in Gainesville during Florida’s spring practice, Gig Harbor, Wash., tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins named Florida his top school with Miami trailing. That was was before he sat down and really did some thinking.
Shortly after putting the Gators on top, he removed them and slid Texas into that spot and announced that he was set on attending Texas. However, Seferian-Jenkins, arguably the nation’s top tight end, didn’t have a Texas offer.
When I spoke to him again in Orlando, he told me that he was visiting Texas in early August and even if he got an offer, his recruiting wouldn’t be over. He was still “very interested” in Florida and Miami.
Well, that all changed.
Texas did offer and instead of having three teams fighting for his services, Seferian-Jenkins has two — Texas and Washington. The 6-7, 252-pounder recently told Rivals.com that he knows where he’s committing to on Aug. 16, but wouldn’t go any further.
I’d be shocked if he doesn’t pick Texas.
Running back mess
If Florida does lose out on Wilder, the coaches will likely concentrate on three running backs — Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J., St. Peter’s Prep), Mike Blakely (Bradenton Manatee) and Mike Bellamy (Punta Gorda Charlotte).
Huggins is believed to be the top running back on Florida’s board, but a source said Rutgers appears to be his favorite. While Huggins visited Florida earlier this month and gave the school and coaching staff rave reviews, it’s believed that with all the visits he’s made to Rutgers, pulling him away from there could be too hard for any school right now.
Blakely has long been linked to Florida and was rumored to have wanted to commit at Friday Night Lights. That commitment never came, but Blakely still maintains that Florida is his top school. Without a commitment at this point, some are wondering who is exactly waiting in this scenario.
Bellamy battled Huggins for the top spot at running back for Florida, but is currently a Clemson verbal. However, he’s reported to be wavering on his commitment and is looking around. This might not be the best option for Florida because if the staff is willing to wait on him, they might be waiting on nothing because Florida’s depth chart is an issue for Bellamy. Waiting on him could cost them other running backs this season.