Wilder Jr. looking to make history in 2018

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TORONTO — It’s only January, but James Wilder Jr. is already setting a high bar for 2018.

Months after becoming the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie with a year that won’t soon be forgotten, the Argos’ running back has promised to become the first player in league history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

Wilder compiled 1,339 combined yards in roughly half a season’s work in 2017.

Those expectations are certainly lofty for the 6-foot-2, 232-pound running back.

Last year, Bombers Canadian running back Andrew Harris threatened the coveted milestone, falling short, in the end, despite having a career year with 1,035 rushing yards and 857 receiving yards.

The next closest to accomplish the feat was Robert Drummond in 1997, when the Argos’ back rushed for 1,134 yards while adding 840 yards through the air.

But after a dominant rookie season for Wilder, the 25-year-old is a legitimate threat to do what no one else has.

Not only were Wilder’s 2017 contributions impressive on the stat sheet — they also sparked the Argos’ Cinderella run to a championship. After playing a limited role through the team’s first 11 games of the year, Wilder’s 257 yards against Edmonton on Sept. 16 sparked a 7-2 run for the Boatmen — including the 105th Grey Cup.

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James Wilder Jr. puts a stiff-arm on Esks linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

In Wilder’s eight games dating back to that point (he missed a game in Week 17 vs. Edmonton), he averaged 95.6 rushing yards per game and 63.9 receiving yards per game. Over the span of an entire season, that rate would lead Wilder to 1,721 rushing yards and 1,150 receiving yards (2,872 yards in total).

That would shatter Mike Pringle’s all-time mark of 2,414, set twice in 1994 and 1972 (although the majority of Pringle’s yardage came on the ground).

Production and pace, of course, are two different things. For Wilder to hit such a mark, he’d have to not only reproduce an unprecedented rookie season in which he averaged 7.15 yards per carry, but also stay healthy throughout most of the year.

Wilder proved his durability in 2017, but his punishing running style could make a full 18-game season a lot to ask for.

Whatever happens, the Argos’ running back should land near the top of most ‘players to watch’ lists for the 2018 season. Meanwhile, his name has already been mentioned as an early MOP favourite.

Could Wilder be in for an historic sophomore season?

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