Less than one week until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
As discussed in our profile of fellow Florida State running back Devonta Freeman, last year almost didn’t happen. Both players were a couple spots down the depth chart to start the year, but injuries threw them into the forefront. And while for Freeman it appeared like a lucky break, for Wilder, it was simply an expansion of his predetermined role. Despite being a between-the-tackles runner, Wilder has a knack for big gains on minimal carries. In eight different contests he averaged five or more yards per carry, and manged 11 touchdowns on just 110 attempts — one score every 10 touches. He was also involved in the receiving game, picking up another two scores through the air on just 19 catches. His 13 touchdowns were tied for fourth in the conference. And if extrapolated out for a full season of around 200 touches, he would’ve been on pace to score 24 times. So no wonder Wilder is one of the most talked about players in the ACC this offseason…
Wilder is a bigger tailback (6’2″ and 229 pounds), so he obviously gets more carries in short yardage situations, which in turn leads to more scores. But it’s not as if he’s a bruiser. Take a look at these highlights. He’s simply a smart runner who takes advantage of blocks and knows how to find holes very quickly. He has strength, which certainly helps, but it’s his quickness that helps him pick up that type of yardage essentially running up the middle. Rushing the ball well leads to success, and with Wilder, Florida State can’t go wrong. They don’t really have a traditional “home run” runner in this backfield — a smaller, speedy player who can spring along the outside. However, with a guy like Wilder back there already, do you even need one?
So long as he’s healthy (and that’s not exactly guaranteed), Wilder has star potential written all over him — for this coming season and beyond. Any back who can split the middle like that and run for daylight is going to see more carries and eventually, run his way to the pros. Even more so than the running game though, you have to wonder how he gets used in the passing game as well. Jameis Winston‘s a young passer who’ll need safety valves whenever possible. Given Wilder’s propensity for catching the ball well in the flat, I’d think this is a no-brainer, and how the junior rusher goes from notable starter to potential first-rounder. Yes, he’s splitting carries with Freeman this fall, but even if things remain largely equal, there’s still a pretty good chance that Wilder is able to pull away and really put up some monster numbers for Florida State.