Up Close: E.J. Wilson

LAWRENCEVILLE, Va. – The North Carolina and Virginia Tech football programs reside on two separate planes right now, with the Hokies where the Tar Heels would like to be. But in the end, Carolina was in a perfect position to land Earl Randolph "E.J." Wilson, Jr., a UNC commitment for 2005 that knows all about a struggling football program.

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    An All-District forward selection on Brunswick's 2003 1-A state championship basketball team, and an All-State performer in track, football is the only sport the 6-foot-3, 235-pound E.J. Wilson ever seriously wanted to pursue.

    Yet, the football program floundered under an uninspired coaching staff for Wilson's first three seasons. And this year, Brunswick is 0-6. But Wilson is convinced the Bulldogs are finally moving in the right direction, having hired first-year coach Harold Williams, a former assistant at Central Sussex that finished 14-0 last year.

    "He's a little behind on some fundamental things," Williams said of Wilson. "He's an athlete I wish I could have coached for four years. He's been a stud since middle school."

    Wilson is good friends (and competitors) with UNC freshman Kentwan Balmer and fellow 2005 commitment Darrius Massenburg. Wilson recollected some fierce duels with both over the years, in several sports.

    A quarterback since his middle school days, Wilson is regularly used all over the field and on both sides of the ball. He has also played tailback, defensive end, all linebacker positions and both safety spots.

    Williams said he tries to rest Wilson on special teams -- when Wilson will let him.

    "His size and athletic ability is what attracts him to most people," Williams said.

    However this year, with the emergence of a highly-competent ninth-grade signal caller, Williams changed Wilson's primary offensive position to receiver.

    According to Wilson, the Virginia Tech coaches told him he would get to play quarterback, but would have to redshirt and then sit out another year or so before getting his chance.

    "He's a little too far behind on the fundamentals to play quarterback at the Division I level," Williams said. "Now he could go to college and play quarterback at Division II right now and do well."

    The Tar Heels, which are looking at Wilson as an outside linebacker or an H-Back, have reportedly told him he could see the playing field much sooner in Chapel Hill.

    "The coaches say they talk everyday about which side of the ball they're going to put me on," Wilson said.

    And while the UNC package offered other enticements, it was the sincerity with which its coaches expressed the need for Wilson that pulled him away from his previous Hokie lean.

    "What keeps me excited is [UNC] put enough faith in me to offer me a scholarship," Wilson said. "They keep calling me to stay in touch. I have enough faith in them to feel like I can go down there and make a difference in the program."

    Williams said Wilson has a 3.9 grade point average and scored over 1200 on his SAT. He also turned down a football scholarship offer from Navy.

    Stay tuned for Part II on Monday…


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