James Wilder is ready to put his freshman year behind him and focus on football and the future.
After making some unwanted headlines this summer for a violation of probation that landed him in a Leon County jail for 11 days, Wilder is back on track and ready for a big 2012.
"Yeah, [I had] a couple of those downfalls and setbacks off the field [and] I got them cleared up," said Wilder. "I can just focus on football. Just 100 percent [focus]."
The first order of business for Wilder is going to be establishing himself as a reliable ball-carrier in what is becoming a three-headed rushing attack for Florida State. With senior Chris Thompson and sophomore Devonta Freeman both recovering from back injuries that held them out of Spring, Wilder enters 2012 the only Seminole back with experience and no medical issues.
And Wilder feels like he's poised to break out.
"I got the playbook down pat, I didn't really know it last year and that's what killed my playing time," said Wilder. "Now that I know it I feel like I can play a bigger role on this team. I have big expectations and my team does too."
In addition to better acclimating himself with the Florida State offense, Wilder has also been working on improving his quickness.
"[I've been] working on my footwork, getting a little bit quicker, I was a little sluggish last season," said Wilder. "I was great at breaking tackles and power, but getting a little quicker knowing we've got a lot of stretch plays and and a lot of outside plays, should help me to be able to adapt to that to be an inside runner and outside runner."
Wilder credits the tight-knit group of running backs, Devonta Freeman in particular, for pushing him and making him better.
"We're out there, we're competing and making each other better. [But] we're not competing as rivals, he's not mad if i'm getting more carries I'm not mad if he's getting more carries," said Wilder.
"We're definitely pushing each other, we know we're going to be here, we're in the same class, we've got a lot more years to be [at Florida State]. We're already different kinds of runners, thunder and lightning type, I mean we're definitely pushing each other making each other better."
The difference in statures is striking, Devonta Freeman is short and a bit squatty, coming in at 5-9 210, while Wilder is tall and lean at 6-2 225. Freeman's nose for the hole and quickness are what helped him become the most reliable back in a meager (104th nationally) FSU run game. Wilder is more of a bruiser, but also boasts deceptive speed and the ability to give defenses a totally different running style than his counterpart.
For Florida State to accomplish its title goals in 2012, they'll need them both – maybe even in the same backfield.
"Yeah we got a couple shotguns where we're both back there together, sometimes I block for him, sometimes he blocks for me, but we're always pushing each other," said Wilder of his relationship with his fellow sophomore. "I mean me and Freeman, we're very close, probably the closest out of everybody, so we're definitely pushing each other and just keeping each other right."
Wilder, who was also recruited as a linebacker, is more than comfortable helping his team in the passing game too, he especially enjoys a good screen.
"Oh yeah, I like to get out into the flats because once I get past the D-Line I'm the same size as the linebackers anyway," joked Wilder. "If I get past the linebackers I'm way bigger than the safeties. On the screens if I have the linemen in front of me that's just a great thing, I see the endzone from there."
Regardless of how the carries are split up between Wilder, Freeman and Chris Thompson it's going to be vital that the former Plant standout and son of a Buccaneers great, play a bigger role on the offense. Wilder knows it too, and in 2012 he has his sights set high.
"I'm not an individual type person, but mine is just go out there and every play, my personal goal is to get five yards per carry. End the season with five yards per carry."