Originally created 01/17/97

Tolbert, Wilder pick Tech futures

The Georgia Tech recruiting blitz that stormed the Augusta area last year nailed down two more local players.

Josey's Armark Tolbert, The Augusta Chronicle'stwo-time player of the year, and Washington-Wilkes' Ed Wilder, both say they plan to sign with the Yellow Jackets.

Tolbert, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, starred for the Eagles at defensive back and wide receiver. He also played quarterback this past season, and garnered all-state honors for the second straight year.

His brother, Troy, was a redshirt freshman at Tech this past season and teamed with Armark on Josey's 1995 Class AAA championship squad.

"It's nice that Troy is there, too, but he really had nothing to do with my decision," Tolbert said. "I like Tech better than the others because it has one of the best graduation rates in the nation. I liked the facilities and really like Atlanta, and it's close to home."

He told Tech head coach George O'Leary of his intentions during his official visit there earlier this month. Tolbert said he waited to announce his plans until now, because he had official visits to other schools scheduled.

Tolbert canceled last weekend's visit to Georgia and this weekend's Clemson visit.

As for Wilder, season-ending knee surgery prevented him from showcasing his talents to recruiters.

It didn't matter.

Late Wednesday, the Tigers fullback expressed his intent to sign with Tech, despite playing just 2« games his senior season due to injury.

"Ed is a special one, a once-in-a-lifetime player, and we knew the injury wasn't going to stop him," said Washington-Wilkes coach Butch Brooks. "We're all very proud of him and he deserves all the good things that are coming his way."

The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Washington-Wilkes' loss to Elbert County Sept. 20, but the injury had no bearing on his status as one of the top recruits in the nation.

O'Leary and Tech assistant Larry New visited with Wilder and his family at their home Wednesday, and Wilder made his decision that evening.

He visited Georgia last weekend, but canceled his upcoming official visit to Notre Dame.

Wilder was in Athens, Ga., Thursday evening for ongoing rehabilitation on his knee, and was unavailable for comment.

His sister, Christian, said Thursday that Tech was a perfect fit.

"He wanted to stay close to home and he liked the academic program at Tech," she said of her brother, who plans to major in physical therapy. "He's real excited and we're all very proud of him."

The preseason Dream 16 selection by The Augusta Chronicle rushed for 1,534 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, leading the Tigers to a runner-up finish in Class AA. An excellent student with a 3.4 grade point average and more than 1,000 on his SAT, Wilder chose Tech over Notre Dame and Georgia.

For Tolbert, qualifying under the NCAA's guidelines is now his top priority. He gave up playing for the Josey basketball team this season and begins night school classes on Tuesday.

"He's going to have to really hit it hard if he's going to make it," said Josey coach John Starr. "He's a great kid and we're all really proud of him and hope he makes it. I really think if he does qualify, he'll be able to play and make an impact as a freshman. But it's going to be close."

"I think I have a good chance," Tolbert said. "It will take a lot of work, but I think I'll be all right."

The top priority for Wilder is making a full recovery, and Brooks said he is "90-to-95 percent" back to full strength, and plans to run track this spring.

For some of the two newest Jackets' prep teammates, it's now a wait-and-see game.

Josey four remaining Division I prospects - defensive backs Deon Grant and John Fielding, defensive end/tight end Percy Bland, and offensive lineman Shaun Williams - are still undecided.

Grant, the 6-4 USA Today All-America, visited Georgia last weekend, will visit Tennessee this weekend and Georgia Tech next weekend.

O'Leary and Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer were in town Wednesday to court Grant at the Josey-Westside basketball game.

Williams and Fielding each met at their home on Thursday with new Alabama head coach Mike Dubose, and both have additional campus visits scheduled - Williams heads to South Carolina next weekend, Penn State Jan. 31, and may visit Southern Methodist; Fielding will visit Clemson this weekend.

Teammates say Bland, who visited Georgia last weekend, is leaning toward the Bulldogs, but the all-state end says he is undecided.

Wilder's teammate and fellow Dream 16 selection, running back/defensive back Nick Callaway, now says he is unsure about his college choice.

The two-time all-state selection expressed his intent to sign with Clemson in December, but Brooks said he is having second thoughts.

The 6-foot, 185-pound star visited Georgia last weekend, and will make his final official visit to Clemson this weekend.

Josey offensive lineman John Griffin says he is headed to South Carolina State.

The 6-3, 230-pound first-team all-area choice by The Augusta Chronicle and honorable mention all-state selection, chose the Bulldogs over Georgia Southern and East Tennessee State.

Oral commitments are non-binding. College football's National Signing Day is Feb. 5.


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