For James Wilson, the national championship ring from last year is nice, but he is looking forward to being able to get out there in 2009 and help his teammates. Wilson has been one of the stars at practice this fall and is constantly mentioned in the battle to start along the line at guard.
After his freshman season in which he sat out because of injury, Wilson was prepared to take his things and head off to Wake Forest where he had a lot of friends and where he believed he could play earlier. After some soul searching and a little bit of advice, Wilson decided to stick it out and the rewards for doing so have already netted him a national championship ring and soon could net him a spot in the starting line up.
"That was when all the Wake Forest talk started happening," Wilson said of the thoughts on transferring. "I just finally realized it was me and I had to get myself right and do everything I can to get healthy and it's starting to pay off."
After still healing from injury through most of the winter, Wilson came into spring camp a little over weight and out of shape. Now, he feels like he can run and play with anyone on the field.
"Its going great, 20 pounds lighter than the spring and everything is easier," Wilson said. "It's definitely a huge relief. I've been able to go and be accountable to the coaches and I'm able to fly around."
James frustration is easy to understand as he came in as one of the highest ranked offensive linemen to ever sign with Florida. He is ready to now show what some perseverance can do for someone with his talent.
"I came in pretty highly ranked and I've been pretty much a bust since," Wilson said. "I've been here and just want to show my teammates that three years paid off and everything I've been through and contribute more.
"Since I've been here, since I've spent every game on the sidelines it's pretty bad but now just being out there I'm giving it my all, I'm not worried about injuries any more."
Wilson is now working with the first team and has actually been rotating at both guard spots due to injuries elsewhere on the line. He has been playing in the right guard spot with the injury to Maurkice Pouncey at center. Maurkice's twin brother Mike Pouncey has been working at center.
"Since Maurkice has been out, I've been taking all the contact reps with the ones so pretty much since last Thursday...(at) right guard."
Wilson understands the competition among the offensive line and he has learned to relish it. He knows that the competition will only make him better as a person and as a player. The staff is looking at him, Matt Patchan,and Sam Robey as possible starters to go with Carl Johnson, Mike Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey, and Marcus Gilbert.
"Me, Patchan, and Robey, it's competitive, it makes practices a lot better," Wilson said. "It definitely helps a lot. Everybody is going hard. If we all do the same we're all considered accountable and can go in the game whenever."
With 14 possible if not probable games on the schedule, it is a long season and injuries happen. Whether or not injuries are the reason James Wilson starts, it is apparent that he will play a lot in 2009. His versatility in jumping to right guard from the left guard spot he has practiced all spring and into the fall will only allow him to get on the field earlier and more often.
Look for Wilson to make a statement this year on the offensive line. A statement he has wanted to make for two years now.