James predominately started at left tackle during his career at Pikeville (N.C.) Aycock.
"I just like playing football," James said. "That's my passion."
Sam Pittman, UNC's offensive line coach, hasn't specifically identified where James will line up at for UNC.
"He's been giving me little inclinations of where I might play," James said. "Sometimes he'll say work on my pulling as a guard and the next day he'll say ‘Work on your snaps.'"
Regardless, offensive linemen typically red-shirt their first season on campus, which would provide Pittman plenty of time to see where James fits best.
"Coach Pittman hasn't really talked to me about [red-shirting]," James said. "He just told me to come in and be ready to compete for a spot. He told me we have a lot of depth along the offensive line."
James sees the positives in both playing as a freshman and red-shirting.
"If I go in and play immediately, that's great," James said. "I get my four years of experience.
"If I red-shirt, I get the extra year and I still develop as a football player. Because I'll be there for five years, I'll graduation with a master's degree."
James' confidence, though, received a boost while attending UNC's Spring Game in early April.
"My thoughts were ‘I can play,'" James said. "Watching workups, I thought ‘If I do the right thing, I'll be able to play.' When you come to games your junior year and even your senior year, you think ‘Wow, these guys are big, these guys are fast.' Now, I'm just looking at it like ‘Everything is okay.'"
James says there's been no discussion of jersey numbers with the UNC coaches.
"[Jersey number] really doesn't matter to me," James said. "My sophomore year, I was given the No. 62 in high school. At first, I really didn't like 62. But it's a number that I took and made. At my high school, you see kids running around with No. 62 on their backs. I'm just going in with the mindset of whatever number [UNC] gives me, it's going to be my number. So I'm going to uphold that number."
After his final football season concluded, James wrestled for Aycock. He won the Eastern Carolina Conference Championship and lost in the regional tournament where he was one match away from qualifying from the state tournament.
"I started pretty late because of all the bowl games," James said. "But I was able to catch the tail end of the season."
Since then, James' focus has been working out.
"I really work out twice a day," James said. "I have a workout period during school during my third period. After fourth period, which is our last period of the day, I go back and cover all the things I didn't do and get some extra running in."
For the most part, James follows the workout regimen UNC sent him.
"I have to make minor modifications due to time constraints," James said. "But I always make sure I get the core of what the program wants me to get."
UNC's workout has several differences from the off-season workout Aycock's football team does.
"It's a lot more body and power specific," James said. "... Everything is about core stability and back stability. In high school, everything is about bench press and squat. This is more about your [abdominal] work and your hamstrings – taking care of those little muscles and stabilizers."
James, who played the football season at the 280-285-pound range, says he's about 281 pounds.
"I've definitely changed body wise, but I'm maintaining the same weight," James said. "The structure of my body is just changing."
In talking to Tom Myslinski, UNC's Strength and Conditioning Coach, the weight James arrives at isn't all that important.
"He told me to just come in in-shape and they'll take care of everything else," James said. "He told me I just need to be able to run. So that's what I've been working on."
James, who will report to UNC on June 13, will enroll undeclared on a major.
"I've really been looking into the exercise and sports science program," James said. "I'm anxious to see what that's all about."