It's tough to know just what to expect from Darius James heading into this week's Under Armour practices and game. On one hand, James is a truly elite talent, arguably the best center prospect to come out in several years, somebody who combines the size of an exterior line prospect with the quickness, root hog ability and pad level of an interior lineman.
But on the other, it's important to note that James played in just one full game his senior year, the playoff contest against DeSoto. And while he was tremendous early on against Round Rock Stony Point in the opener, that was four months and (at least) 20 pounds ago. After suffering a foot injury, James saw his weight boost to more than 340 pounds, which is where he was at when he played DeSoto.
Even at that weight, James had enough natural ability to stand out, but the linemen he'll be facing this week will be among the best in the country. It's unreasonable to expect James to achieve his former level of freakishness in such a short time, though it would be nice to see him come in significantly (10 or more pounds) lighter and display flashes of what he can do.
The next few months will be important for James. While many players are coasting through a basketball season or enjoying their time off, James has the potential to play immediately on the 40 Acres, even on a line that is set to return all five starters from a year ago.
Will he be able to put in that kind of effort to get ready? Even if he's not back to 100 percent, Under Armour could provide our first glimpse into whether James will have the work ethic to become an immediate factor.