TAMPA, Fla. (updated 7:42 EST) - In the end, it was a ruse.
Nattily attired in a Georgia red and black shirt and vest, James Wilder Jr. pulled an end around.
The Plant (Tampa, Fla.) senior, the No. 1 recruit in the country from the Class of 2011 according to MaxPreps.com, announced his commitment Wednesday afternoon to Florida State University.
A 6-foot-2, 220 pound running back, defensive end and linebacker, Wilder has spent the summer yielding as many as 80 offers from Division I schools.
Wilder said his decision came down to several factors.
Proximity, being comfortable and running the football.
“I knew two days ago,’’ Wilder said. “All the schools were great. I feel very blessed. But I wanted to be near family and after everything it was hard passing up Florida. It was hard passing up Georgia. But I felt in my heart the most comfortable at FSU.’’
“Coach (Jimbo) Fisher knows how to run the ball. I think I fit in their scheme perfectly.’’
The Seminoles are getting an athlete who ran for 1,004 yards with 15 touchdowns in 2009 as a high school junior. He averaged 7.49 yards a carry.
On defense, Wilder posted 136 tackles, 19 sacks and caused six fumbles.
Plant went 13-1 in 2009 and won the Class 5A state championship.
“He’s the best high school football player I’ve ever seen,’’ said Plant coach Robert Weiner. “And that’s not hyperbole.’’
Wilder Jr. made his announcement at Plant in front of a large throng of media and into six microphones. Though he joked at the podium, Wilder Jr. said the decision was extremely tough.
"I was having trouble sleeping," he said. "But I made my decision and slept great last night. Now I can focus on the season and help my team win the state championship."
According to MaxPreps/CBS College Sports recruiting expert Tom Lemming, Wilder, the son of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-time leading rusher by the same name, could have an All-American career waiting for him on defense, though schools have told him he can be a difference maker at running back.
Wilder is the third big-name recruit from Plant to commit to a major Division I school this month.
Quarterback Phillip Ely chose Alabama and offensive tackle Tony Posada picked Michigan. The verbal commitments come after lengthy recruiting processes for all the athletes. Ely (19-0 as a starter for Plant and the owner of two state championships) and Posada (a dominating 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle) were key players for a Plant team is set to start a quest for a third straight state championship.
Wilder was attracted to Georgia partially because two other high-profile Plant players are already in the Bulldogs' camp. Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray and sophomore tight end Orson Charles actively helped recruit Wilder.
Evidently, that recruiting help wasn't good enough.
Florida State's superb in-state recruiting class continues to grow.
Karlos Williams, a defensive back from Ridge (Davenport, Fla.)., and a pair of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) stars, wide receiver Rashad Greene and offensive lineman Bobby Hart lead the other Florida natives. contingent committed to the Seminoles.
The top committed out-of-state recruit is Tyler Hunter, a defensive back from Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.).
MaxPreps Football Editor Steve Spiewak contributed to this report.
Live blog from Plant High School.