2010 Intro: Matt James

RALEIGH, N.C. --- Looking at his measurables, it's easy to project Matt James as a wide receiver. However, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder is being recruited for several different positions.

"It's really spread out," Sanderson High's head football coach Jason Tindal said. "It's interesting because there are so many different things he can do. Some schools are recruiting him as a tight end, some schools are recruiting him truly as a receiver, some schools – like East Carolina – think he's going to be an outside linebacker, and some see him growing into a defensive end."

Furthermore, there are schools that have labeled James an athlete and have pushed off projecting his position until he arrives on campus.

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"Virginia Tech's whole attitude with Matt is: if he doesn't wind up making it as a receiver, they definitely can use him on defense," Tindal said. "Because he has that height and long arms, and he runs so well."

Tindal believes James will excel wherever he lines up on the collegiate level. However, he could envision James becoming a defensive end.

"You take a kid like Matt, put him in a Division I setting with a nutritionist, not playing three sports year-round, his metabolism gets into a normal state, he's eating a lot of food, he's training extra harder with the weights. I could see Matt being a 240-pound, 250-pound monster coming off the edge as a pass rusher," Tindal said.

Tindal compares James to Manny Lawson, who currently plays defensive end/outside linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. Lawson, who was an NFL first round draft pick out of NC State, played wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, and linebacker for Goldsboro (N.C.) Eastern Wayne High.

"[Matt] is a very dynamic athlete," Tindal said. "He's very long and tall. He does a great job doing multiple things whether its catching passes, blocking in the running game, blocking kicks, running back kicks, and also as a pass rushing defensive end."

James also has "great grades," according to Tindal.

Air Force, East Carolina, and Virginia Tech have already offered James a scholarship, while schools nationwide have expressed interest. Based on conversations with staff members, Duke, Clemson, and Wake Forest appear close to offering. In addition to the aforementioned schools, James is receiving significant interest from Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Virginia.

John Shoop is heading up James' recruitment for UNC.

"Carolina signed quite a bit of receivers in their last class, so if you're looking at Matt truly just as a receiver, that might be a numbers thing – obviously Carolina has a business to do," Tindal said. "They like Matt as a receiver. But I think once he gets back on campus, once the coaches eye-ball him and see he's not 6-3, he's 6-5, 6-6, [and] he runs a legit 4.5-4.6 forty, consistently, they'll see he's valuable in other spots."

James plans to unofficially visit UNC sometime this spring and attend one of the Tar Heels' camps this summer.

In addition to UNC's camp, James will attend Duke's team camp with his teammates this summer. He's looking to make several camp stops, but hasn't began to iron out plans.

Thus far this spring, James has attended junior days at Clemson, Duke, and East Carolina.

James says he doesn't have any favorite schools and isn't sure when he'll make a verbal commitment.

"It would be nice to stay close to home, but if the opportunity came to play somewhere in another state, I'd definitely interested in going to that school," James said.

James' mother is a NC State graduate, but he says the majority of the rest of his family attended UNC.

Since Tindal's arrival, Sanderson has run a flex bone, triple-option offense. Offensively, the Spartans have been a run-first team – they threw the ball 48 total times last season. All that will change this fall.

"We're moving more to a modern look of shotgun 100-percent of the time and four-wide receiver sets," Tindal said. "We're going to run a lot of quick-game passing. We're going throw before we run now. We're going to try to get the ball in Matt's hands now. We're going to move him one spot closer to the football, too."

Last season, James caught 18 passes for 450 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed 21 times for 250 yards and two more scores.

With the new offense, James expects to easily improve on those numbers.

"It's nice that we're spreading it out," James said. "It gives the opportunity for a lot of things to happen – not just passing, we can also use the option. I'm looking forward to catching more passes, though."

The new offense is better suited for the personnel Tindal will be working with this fall. Sanderson's offensive linemen are better equipped for pass protection than run blocking, and have a reliable receiving target in James to build around.

"From putting together Matt's highlight film last year, we figured out that we didn't do a great job of finding ways to get him the ball more, and our other playmakers, in space," Tindal said. "We're going to be more of a spread look."

Offense is James' primary responsibility. Thus, Tindal expects James to play, at the most, 10-percent of the defensive snaps.

"We're going to use him in situations where we expect draws, screens, and passes to get another athlete on the field," Tindal said.

During his junior season, James saw five defensive snaps and totaled three sacks.

"He has an unbelievable ability to rush the passer – even though he doesn't work on it a whole lot in practice," Tindal said.

Once again, James' playmaking ability will be utilized on special teams also. He will return kickoffs and punts, and also be on the field goal block team. Last season, he returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns, and blocked four kicks.

Matt James Profile


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