Fake James Wilder (or why recruiting bothers me)

The Gators have ten recruits for the 2011 season. Of the group, UF has top-rated QB Jeff Driskel and three future wide receivers, all of who are four-stars according to most scouting sites. Florida's best recruit might be Jeoffrey Pagan, a DE prospect at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds.

I have not written at all about those ten players because; 1. It was Baseball season. 2. Recruiting gives me the creeps. Between the message boards and unemployed guys harassing high school kids on Facebook and Twitter, recruiting has never appealed to me. During the Fall it deserves coverage, but I don't see how much faith you can put in a player before their most important season. It's like UF accepting a high school junior before their SATs scores are released. 

That said, when Tampa product James Wilder supposedly picked UF Wednesday night, it was a big deal to me. Not only did Wilder dominate for a very good Plant team, he is wanted by nearly every UF rival. But the story unraveled as quickly as it got wound up. Wilder was on a trip to Georgia and Georgia Tech, not Facebooking his committment to UF. Someone thought it would be fun to impersonate a high school student on Facebook and email a reporter. Or, someone was trying to deliberately throw off schools from recruiting Wilder. 

The covertness of recruiting is nothing new. Remember, Nu'Keese Richardson never told anyone he was visiting Tennessee. What is new is the influence of fanbases and message boards on recruits. Not only does the recruit have his high school or neighbors asking him where he will go, he has thousands online. A private decision has become a public one.

The result is what we saw with Matt Elam. Rather than taking his time, he made quick decisions, trying to please everyone by doing so. In Elam's case, his final choice of UF was one that was approved by his mother and brother. His week flirtation with FSU was swayed by FSU coaches and online whispers of Urban Meyer's health. It was a clear example of message board rumor and influence being pushed as fact. (Just because something is on the internet, does not make it true.)

The problem is that this is the business we have chosen. We watch Armwood-Plant on Sun Sports or ESPNU high school basketball games. Not because we went to those schools, but because we want to see who will be our player next season. As fans, we also want more and more information. If we can get that by paying $30 a month to fat old men who go to football practices? Great. But much better if we could find those kids on Facebook and talk to them ourselves. The further we go, the closer we get to crossing an ethical line in the sand. Maybe someone faking James Wilder will finally be that line.

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