Commentary

OLB with RB aspirations

James Wilder II is a top-notch OLB, but still wants to follow in his dad's footsteps

Originally Published: November 25, 2009
By Billy Tucker | Scouts Inc.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of stories introducing some of the top players in the Class of 2011.

TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Watching James Wilder II (Tampa Bay, Fla./Plant) step onto the practice field, it's hard to imagine the ESPNU 150 Watch List outside linebacker is merely a high school junior. After watching him practice and evaluating his game film, it's also hard to imagine many better 2011 outside linebackers in the country.

Wilder is one of those rare physical specimens with vascular bulk and a long, tapered frame with great speed and athleticism. He already looks like a college strongside linebacker with the speed and lateral agility of a weakside defender. The latter should come as no surprise because Wilder is the son of former NFL running back James Wilder who starred for the Tampa Bay Bucs during the 1980s and his father has been instrumental in his son's development.

"Oh shoot, my dad has helped me a lot," explained Wilder II. "Since I was a baby I've looked up to my dad. I've always watched his films but he doesn't just care about football, he wants me to get my academics done first."

The former All-Pro running back will guide his young son on the gridiron as well.

"If I make a mistake on the field, I know he's going to tell me what I did wrong right after," laughed Wilder. While most schools are recruiting him at end or outside linebacker, Wilder II wouldn't mind following in his father's footsteps at running back. There are a few schools who have told him he could remain in the backfield. "USC, Missouri (his father's alma mater) and Miami are the only three right now recruiting me at running back," said the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder.

Wilder II is the type of prospect you discuss playing anywhere during his recruitment and let it work itself out when he arrives on campus. Aside from his physical gifts and ability, this junior exudes a lot of nastiness and intensity when he straps on the shoulder pads.

"I fear nobody," stated Wilder II. "I want to get a hit and be in on the play regardless, even if I'm on the other side of the field."

A recent transfer from Chamberlain High School, Wilder II feels his game has picked up thanks to the great competition and intensity he faces everyday at practice as well as a caring support system.

"What makes this program special are the players and coaches," Wilder explained. "The coaches care for you outside of football, they will have your back for anything you need and you can depend on them. The players, we are like a family, we're brothers and there for each other too."

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.

Billy Tucker

Scouts, Football Recruiting
• Recruiting coordinator for ESPN RecruitingNation.
• Nearly a decade of college coaching experience.
• Was recruiting coordinator at nationally-ranked Division II colleges.