By Gabriel Stovall
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Believe it or not, there was a time when you could say “Charles Wiley,” and nobody wearing the tag of big time college football recruit would flinch.
Now? Forget flinching. Nearly every blue blood college football program in the southeast was literally jumping at the chance to claim the services of the 6-foot-3, 235 pound defensive end from Stockbridge. But in the end it was Wiley making the jump to Ole Miss, officially committing after spending the weekend at the Rebels’ Junior Day.
He took to Twitter late Sunday to make his decision. And later, when asked about the rationale behind picking the Rebels over 15 other schools — including Clemson and Auburn which he called his top three — he elaborated on why the choice was a no-brainer.
“I just knew that’s the place for me,” Wiley said. “I just know. When you know it, you just know it.”
Wiley was a beast for the Tigers in 2014, helping them to a Class AAAAA semifinals finish by compiling a ridiculous 20 sacks, 53 tackles including 16 stops for losses, in addition to a punt block and a pass deflection.
And though Wiley’s stock had been steadily rising since the end of his sophomore year, the new Rebel said he thinks it was his last two times on the football field that served as the alarm clock for high school football recruiting experts.
“I think it was the Mays Game that was the cherry on top,” Wiley said. “That and the Rising Senior game where I got the chance to go up against the best in the state and still do really good. I think those two games definitely put me on the map.”
But now, after choosing Ole Miss at the height of his popularity — Wiley has been a consensus top 15 recruit in Georgia across various recruiting services — he’s off the radar.
“I’m not the kind of person who’s going to flip my commitment,” Wiley said. “Now I can just focus on me and on trying to get better and get our team to this state championship.”
Wiley’s coach Kevin Whitley, now in his sixth year of turning Stockbridge around from also-ran to a state championship contender, said the commitment of his star end made him smile.
“He must have really liked it for him to commit up there,” Whitley said. “I don’t make decisions for the kids, I just give it advice. Whatever the family wants. Both parents were with him (at Junior Day), so he wasn’t by himself with the decision, and when they’re happy and he’s happy, I’m happy.”
Whitley does believe though that it wouldn’t have been long before Wiley’s recruitment really could’ve spawned into something major.
“Sometimes I think kids need to commit early,” he said. “And in Charles’ case, I thought he could’ve even waited a little bit.”
Georgia, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Notre Dame were among some of the other suitors for Wiley’s services. But one Wiley said the chief thing that caused Ole Miss to stand out from the rest is the energy they spent recruiting him. It wasn’t a sales pitch approach, he said. It was authentic, genuine interest.
“A lot of the time, people were asking me who from a certain school was recruiting me, and for certain schools I couldn’t even say who they were because they didn’t talk to me enough,” Wiley said. “But the funny thing was, I didn’t really know who was specifically recruiting me from Ole Miss either, but for a whole totally different reason. It was because it felt like the whole staff was coming for me.”
Part of that may be due to Ole Miss’ familiarity with the talent in Whitley’s Stockbridge program. The Rebels came to the Henry County school to poach defensive back Kendarius Webster during the 2013 season — the year when coach Hugh Freeze’s recruiting class was deemed as arguably the nation’s best.
Wiley said Webster’s presence definitely weighed on his decision.
“I have a couple of friends that go up there,” he said. “Ken is one of those guys, and he tells me, you know, as long as you ball out, you can play as a freshman. And that’s big on my list.”
Said Whitley: “Ken’s a very respected guy up there, and most of those recruiting guys up there have an area and that didn’t change for them as they were coming after Charles, so I think that definitely had a factor.”
Now with the big college decision behind him, Wiley said he’s ready to place laser focus on bettering himself and his team.
“Honestly, I’m never gonna forget that I was that guy that everyone slept on,” Wiley said. “So I’m not gonna be happy just hearing other people saying I’m one of the best, because there’s always somebody out there trying to be better than me. I can’t look at other people’s opinions. I can just work now on making myself better, bigger, faster and stronger. And of course getting us to the Dome for that championship.
“That’s what it’s about now.”