Wilson Wanted One More Chance

James Wilson didn't want to leave Gainesville with the way his career had gone through the first five years. He wanted one more. Wilson approached the Florida coaches during the 2011 season to ask about getting an extra year of eligibility, and the coaches were on his side. After hearing back from the NCAA and the SEC, he got good news for his sixth and final year on the Florida offensive line.

"It was my idea," James Wilson said on Thursday. "I just wasn't satisfied with my career here and knew I could do a lot better. I didn't want to go out like that."

The application process started, but Wilson, who turned 23 in January, was always optimistic. The serious nature of knee and foot injuries that have plagued him through his Florida career made him confident he would get the news he wanted.

During Gator Bowl preparations in Jacksonville, director of football operations George Wynn informed Wilson that the SEC had already approved his sixth-year and that they were just waiting for the NCAA.

The coaches were in constant support of him.

"They recognized that I progressively got better during the season and gave me a shot," Wilson said.

Now that he's cleared to remain on the team, the offseason has been focused on trying to improve his body to limit injury. A lot of that has come from first-year strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman.

The switch to Olympic weight lifting has helped Wilson stay in shape while strengthen his body. He said his knees feel good for just the second year out of his six on campus.

"I really think it has a lot to do with Coach Dillman and the strength and conditioning program we have now," said Wilson, who is down to 320 pounds after playing at 330 last year. "It's a lot more power lifting and things that I did in high school. I really feel a lot stronger.

"It's more core strength and controlled lifts. It's more technique-based."

The end of spring practice means a little more to Wilson this year. It's the first time he made it through spring practice without getting hurt.

"I went up to Coach Muschamp and said, "Coach, I made it through my first spring." He was all happy," Wilson said with a smile. "It was kind of a big deal. I've just got to keep trucking and make it through my first camp now."

Wilson's return isn't just important to him. He's happy to return for his final season in Gainesville, but there's also an open spot at left guard. Florida head coach Will Muschamp has said throughout the spring that Wilson will be a factor and has taken plenty of first-team reps at the position.

The position group that has received the most praise this spring is that offensive line. They went into last season with two players that had experience up front, and it showed during the season. The experience that the young offensive line got in 2011 was valuable and has carried into a strong spring.

"We communicate and are comfortable with each other," Wilson said. "We tell each other when one is slacking off or not. It's more like a family.

"We just have so much pride on the o-line now. If a quarterback gets hit, it's a direct reflection on us. We never thought we were really soft, we just thought we weren't consistent enough."


Fightin Gators Top Stories