Jesus Wilson is not about to back down, not even from the man some believe to be the best and baddest cornerback in college football.
“Me and Jalen went at it today,” Wilson said of cornerback Jalen Ramsey following one of the early Florida State camp practices.
“I can control Jalen.”
Wilson laughed, knowing that poking Ramsey may not be the best idea.
But this is the new, improved and highly confident Jesus “Bobo” Wilson. The junior from Miami Columbus is the elder statesman of the Seminoles’ young, talented and extremely deep receiving corps, perhaps the deepest in school history. He has apprenticed under NFL draft picks Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin. He has overcome a one-game suspension and handled being replaced by true freshman Travis Rudolph as Jameis Winston’s No. 2 target.
Now, he feels a sense of urgency, knowing one more stretch of dropping
passes while wide open — something that plagued him late last season — could mean being passed by his young, eager teammates.
“I’ve got a different mindset,” Wilson said. “I’m more buying into the system. And I know what to do. I feel relaxed on the field.
“I can make big plays now. And I go against Jalen every day, so I’m getting better every day.”
The 5-10 Wilson entered camp as the starting “Z” receiver, a distinction that is anything but set in stone considering the Seminoles brought in two of the best receiver classes in the nation the last two years.
But coach Jimbo Fisher has seen a transformation from a follower with unsteady hands and inconsistent play to one who, at least so far, appears much more sure of himself.
“There’s a thing called, ‘I belong here and I’m really good enough,’” Fisher said. “It’s like anything you do new. You do it and the game just slows down. You start to see things, you start to process more things and make better decisions. That allows your mind to be more free.”
Wilson, who played sparingly as a freshman (3 catches), caught 42 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns last season. But in the last five games, he had nine receptions, 10 fewer than Rudolph. Five of those catches came in the national semifinal against Oregon, where he looked more like the player who averaged 4.5 catches during six crucial games in the middle of the season.
“I was always thinking too much,” Wilson said about his sophomore season.
Wilson’s first step was in weight room where he said he added 10 pounds; he is now listed at 185. He says he’s much stronger and has more confidence when it comes to controlling a defender.
Next was incorporating what he learned from his predecessors, especially Greene, the program’s all-time leading receiver and one of its most respected leaders.
“Rashad is very humble,” Wilson said. “He’s going to lead by his actions.” For Wilson, that means “going to work every day, taking no days off,” and the younger receivers — sophomores Rudolph, Ermon Lane and Ja’Vonn Harrison and freshmen George Campbell, Auden Tate, Da’Vante Phillips and Nyqwan Murray — will follow.
“It’s just becoming more mature, on the field and off the field,” said Wilson, who served a one-game suspension last season for stealing a motor scooter. He agreed to a plea deal.
“I’ve got to become more of a leader this year. … I’ve got to show the younger guys how to do it.”
Receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey sees that leadership bubbling to the top, saying Wilson has “been trying to make those strides to be more dependable and accountable on a regular basis with consistency.
“I have been real pleased.”