Auburn, Ala.--Versatility has become a key to playing winning defense in college football and while that mostly concerns the secondary, junior college transfer Paul James III is out to show that it can be important for players closer to the line of scrimmage as well.
Playing defensive end for the Auburn Tigers, James is expected to lined up at both the strong side end as well as the buck position this season. While he is still a work in progress, James has definitely made some big strides since the spring said defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
“He’s gotten better every scrimmage and he is fun to coach,” Steele said. “He has a skill set that can make him really good so when he gets it figured out...he’s getting better every day at practice. Every day. He’s not a high rep guy. He’s a smart football player so that helps him.
“There are still some things that happen where it’s the first time he’s seen it. He is a guy that is strong and powerful enough to play a six technique (strong side) or on a tight end or be an open side guy and even drop him in coverage.”
Playing both sides would be difficult for even the most veteran of players, but for a player like James it has been tougher because of his missed practice time in the spring. Still working to make sure he’s up to speed for the season, James noted it has meant working overtime to get ready.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “Every day is a challenge. We get new plays every day. Coach, he takes me one-on-one and walks me through the things that need to know. With him being on my side it’s not very tough, but it is challenging.”
Weighing in at 271 pounds on his 6-4 frame, James said he has worked to get back into game shape after suffering a stress fracture in his foot before spring practice. Now confident in his ability on the field, the former Illinois player said he is determined to get the job done after struggling through the spring.
“I’ll say it was a little tough because coming off the injury I was out shape,” James said. “I was thrown in the fire at the time. Missing three weeks of practice really hurt me, but it also gave me that edge to get back and go hard.”
With his goal of playing in the SEC within his grasp, James said that now all that is left is to get on the field and show what he can do.
“One hundred percent I’m looking forward to it because I feel like I’m going against the best of the best,” James said. “When I go out there and do what I do best nobody can’t compete with that.”