BEAVERTON, Ore. - He lined up mainly on defense all day, made some spectacular plays, showed off his superb athleticism, kept up stride for stride with wide receivers in coverage and continues to build muscle mass to look a linebacker.
But James Wilder Jr. doesn't want to be on defense. The Tampa (Fla.) Plant prospect said here at the NIKE 7on Tournament that his dream is to be a running back and that college coaches shouldn't waste their time if they plan to use him anywhere else.
Rivals.com rates Wilder, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound five-star prospect, as the top athlete, third-best player in the 2011 class and second in the Florida Preseason Top 100 behind only linebacker Tony Steward.
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With those credentials, Wilder can pretty much do whatever he likes and he said college coaches are warming up to the idea of playing him on offense.
"I did a lot of linebacker, our linebackers needed some help because they're pretty hurt and pretty banged up so I went in there," Wilder said. "I'm still going to do both this season because I'm going to be a running back so I'm definitely going to be on the offensive side of the ball. I'm definitely going to do both to help my team out.
"Some (coaches) have been trying to push me to linebacker but I just tell them to not recruit me if they want me for linebacker. I have a passion for running back and that's what I'm going to play. You can control the game. If you actually have the football in your hands you can actually control the game. It's all what you do with the ball so I like to have control over the game."
Wilder, playing for the Super Speed team with his Plant teammates in this 7-on-7 extravaganza on the lush NIKE Campus, admitted that some college coaches have given him the recruiting pitch that he projects as a linebacker. After all, how many running backs are this massive, this muscular and this developed? It's his dream to play offense, though, and Wilder wants to pursue it for as long as he can.
He has already visited Florida and Florida State and likes both in-state programs. He's encouraged that the Gators are recruiting some fullbacks to complement their running backs.
Wilder thinks with a fullback in front of him he'd be unstoppable, even if Florida's offense in recent years has been designed around smaller, quicker scat backs. The Plant standout is heartened that Florida State has had a history of top running backs in its program.
Wilder also wants to visit LSU, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Miami for sure before reaching any kind of decision. More visits will also occur, but he's not sure where yet. There's a good chance Wilder will take official visits, too.
"There could be a lot more," he said.
Bridgewater is all fun and games
Miami Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami commit, was exceptional on Day 1 at all three positions he played - quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. Bridgewater has flirted with other spots before but promises that in his senior season he'll focus only on quarterback because that's where he wants to play for the Hurricanes.
He was outstanding at wide receiver and in the secondary but probably strongest at quarterback, early on throwing two pinpoint touchdown passes and hooking up with 2012 wide receiver Amari Cooper multiple times on team Vapor Trail.
"It's a lot of fun. We have a lot of different packages where I can also line up at wide receiver and play safety," Bridgewater said. "It's all to make the team better. The first game (in the tournament) we had trouble adjusting because we had guys who weren't around for a while and we just had to adjust.
"When the season comes I'm just going to be the quarterback. I want to just focus on that for college, but I have it set in my mind I'm a quarterback, but I'm also an athlete so I see myself as an athlete. It's a lot of fun right now."
Cooper is a player to watch. He overshadowed the rest of Vapor Trail's offense by using his speed and elusiveness to slip by defenders, and Bridgewater, rated as the fifth-best dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com, found him all over the field. It was a lethal duo all day.
Lee shows off special talents
Marqise Lee has been running track and playing AAU basketball, but it sure didn't look like he had much rust on him Thursday as the Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra prospect was one of the best-looking and most-productive athletes all day.
On offense, Lee ran a bunch of crossing patterns, and recent SMU commit Conner Preston hit him for big gains. On defense, he used his athleticism and jumping ability to knock down passes or intercept them.
There were times when Lee, a 6-foot-1, 187-pound prospect, complained about being tired because he isn't in football shape, but he didn't look hampered at all.
"We've been at this for eight days, so we're at a disadvantage," Serra coach Scott Altenberg said. "Last year we got another whole tournament in; we had a lot of stuff. The thing is we're going to work it through, but we're not quite as deep as we were last year. George (Farmer) missed the whole last game pretty much, and Marqise missed the whole first or second game, so it's hard.
"We'll use (Lee) a lot on offense, and of course he's one of our better safeties. His thing is just being ready to go. He's been playing basketball and track, and that's different. Everything with the pounding on the grass is a lot different in this sport, and they have to get in that shape. We've been at it eight or nine days, but we'll get there. I liked how we battled in the end and made it happen."
The Land Sharks, Serra's team name in this tournament, could be tough in Friday's championship round - if they can stay healthy. Farmer, the nation's top-rated receiver, was hampered by cramps late in the afternoon. Lee also dealt with some muscle tightness. With more rest and a night to recuperate, the Land Sharks will be a team to watch.
Many other notable performances
** Demetrius Hart stole the show for Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips - team Zoom Blade - early in the day when after catching a beautiful touchdown pass from 2012 quarterback Nick Patti, Hart spiked the ball and then did a back flip in the end zone. Hart said it's kind of a signature move.
Also for Dr. Phillips, Hasean Clinton-Dix (Alabama commit) wasn't extraordinarily productive, but it's easy to see why Rivals.com rates him as the third-best athlete and No. 28 prospect in the class. He's big and strong and can certainly cause havoc on defense.
Another player to watch for Dr. Phillips is 6-foot-5, 205-pound wide receiver Chris Gallon, one of Patti's favorite targets. Gallon is fast enough to play outside and catch passes over small defenders or make an inside move and come across the middle. It would be no surprise to see his recruitment pick up dramatically.
** Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville pro-style quarterback Cardale Jones, a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, has all the physical tools but struggled with his accuracy.
Glenville receiver Shane Wynn will be one to keep an eye on Friday. He's super sneaky and fast and then has bursts of speed to separate himself after the catch. Linebacker Andre Sturdivant, wide receiver/linebacker Frank Clark and defensive back Malik Moore also passed the eyeball test.
** Denton (Texas) Guyer dual-threat quarterback J.W. Walsh, an Oklahoma State commit, is strong and physical and has nice touch on his throws. He looks like a stronger Max Wittek or 2010 Iowa signee A.J. Derby and might throw a better ball than both of them.
** Team Super Bad, the group from Arlington (Texas) Martin, is led by a group of defensive backs that includes Devonta Burns and 2012 prospect Eric Amoako, who each deflected numerous passes during the day.
Running back Danzel Williams was impressive, but maybe the most exciting player to watch on that team was quarterback Russell Bellomy, a Purdue commit, who made the short and long throws and also threw well on the run but sometimes struggled with his consistency on the deep passes.
** Kris Frost was clearly the best player on team Vapor Carbon - the group from Matthews (N.C.) Butler. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect lined up at wide receiver and was open multiple times but the ball wasn't delivered to him. Frost also played defense and made numerous stops. Rivals.com rates him as the second-best athlete and No. 27 in the 2011 class.