GAINESVILLE -- Florida offensive lineman James Wilson is a thoughtful guy. He's introspective, highly intelligent and, for the first time in college career, he isn't a bust.
Wilson, a redshirt sophomore, called himself a recruiting bust on Tuesday but said he is finally beginning to fulfill some of the lofty potential that was placed upon him when he signed with Florida three years ago. Wilson was a five-star prospect, according to Rivals.com, but his first two seasons at UF were disappointments. Wilson arrived at UF with a knee injury. Last year he suffered from micro-fractures in his feet.
For the past week, Wilson practiced with the first-team offense while center Maurkice Pouncey rested a sore shoulder. Wilson played right guard during training camp while Mike Pouncey moved from right guard to center, stepping in for his injured twin brother.
"I'm 20 pounds lighter than I was in the spring and it makes things so much easier," Wilson said. "It's a huge relief. Just being about to go and be accountable to coaches and finally fly around."
Maurkice Pouncey practiced on Tuesday for the first time this fall, meaning Wilson was bumped back down the depth chart. The starting offensive line, according to Wilson: left tackle Matt Patchan, left guard Carl Johnson, center Maurkice Pouncey, right guard Mike Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert.
While he's not a starter, Wilson will play plenty this season. Ideally, UF rotates its top eight or nine offensive line throughout games to keep players fresh. Other reserve offensive linemen who are in the rotation include Maurice Hurt, Sam Robey and freshmen Xavier Nixon and Jonotthan Harrison.
If a starter goes down, regardless of the position, then Wilson will likely be the first player off the bench. Several of UF's offensive linemen are required to know more than one position. For example, Marcus Gilbert and Carl Johnson could play both tackle and guard while the Pouncey twins can play either center or guard.
After battling through a knee injury and micro-fractures in his feet, Wilson is happy he's finally able to contribute. He's also happy he didn't transfer to Wake Forest last year. Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday that Wilson was so close to transferring that his bags were packed.
"I came in pretty highly ranked and I've been pretty much a bust since I've been here," Wilson said. "I just want to show my teammates that three years paid off and through everything I've been through I just want to start contributing. I just finally realized it was me and had to get myself right and do everything I can to get right and it's starting to pay off."
[PICTURED, A bust no more.]
Meyer said on Tuesday that he spoke to Wilson after practice and told him, "he can play this game a while if you just practice."
As for Wilson's decision to remain at Florida instead of transferring to Wake Forest, Meyer said, "He was gone. He was packed and ready to go.
"Like a lot of these guys, you want to run from something that's hard. If I had a list of every kid that wanted to quit or quit in the last 20 years ... as a matter of fact, I went through this, every receiver we've ever had at Florida at one point quit. Think about that. From Dallas Baker to [Riley] Cooper and all those guys in between. At some point every one of them. Because it's hard. The expectation level, especially on skill players, is -- this guys are all super stars in high school and they come here and they're not super stars. It takes a while to become a good player. The frustration runs out."
Jarred Fayson (Illinois) and Nyan Boateng (California) are the two receives who transferred. Both players are projected starters this season at their new schools.
FRANKIE HAMMOND JR. IMPROVING
Meyer said on Tuesday that redshirt freshman Frankie Hammond Jr. is the top reserve at receiver.
"Frankie Hammond is ahead of them," Meyer said. "Frankie Hammond and T.J. Lawrence are beginning to progress."
BRENDAN BEAL NOT TRANSFERRING
Internet rumors that linebacker Brendan Beal is transferring are false, according to Meyer. Beal is currently battling for the back-up spot at middle linebacker, according to Meyer.
"The one thing about Brendan Beal, a very smart guy. He just loves the game and wants to play and also get a great education," Meyer said. "He just wants to play and I can't blame him."