HT-WT-SPEED: Listed between 5-foot-11 and 6-foot, while carrying around 210-pounds to 220-pounds makes Jamel James a true power back in every sense of the word. If the Irish are looking for a pound-it-up-the-middle 'back, James is the right place to start. However, with his physical size also can come one drawback, speed.
While James shows the ability to separate from defenders for long runs, some question his overall top-end speed. Despite those concerns, I feel James has the makings of a big play 'back, one capable of pounding into the middle of the line but still quick enough to pull off a big time run.
QUICKNESS – AGILITY – BALANCE: This is where you take away pure speed and look for football speed. It is one thing to be able to run a sprint, another to run well with defenders on your back or to be evasive of linebackers looking to take your head off. They're different skill sets and James has the latter.
James shows quick feet with above average agility and balance with the ball is in his hands. Not only does James show the ability to hit a hole, he also shows he can use his balance to get his shoulders squared to maximize his natural power.
STRENGTH: James brings the complete package with brute strength and recoil in his upper and lower body. The combination of the three is what sets James apart from most high school running backs. Watch James in action to see how he explodes into defenders when he blocks.
BODY FLEXBILITY: While there are areas of work needed in overall body flexibility for almost every high school football athlete, James is above average in this regard from a football standpoint. He bends well and is able to make the adjustments needed to put his body in position to perform at a high level. When watching James run, you are able to see him make a short, hard cut then burst into a full stride run.
PRODUCTION: Because of his running style, James is capable of creating his own production on the field. He rarely goes down on first contact and looks to get every yard possible. One thing often missing from a recruited running back in a Brian Kelly offense is solid blocking ability. Most 'backs shy away from the contact, but James shows the willingness to do the little things and takes great joy in pounding a defender when he's not the primary person in the play. One area of question will be his ability to catch the football -- a key element for all 'backs in the Kelly attack.
ON THE FIELD
While watching James on film the first thing I looked for is his initial quickness out of his stance and towards the line of scrimmage. Taking most of his snaps in a spread formation, James doesn't rush to hit a hole. While some might questions his start, I don't. James allows the zone blocking schemes to work for him and shows the ability to find the right hole to maximize each run.
With the ability to run inside, James shows he can pick and slide before using his quickness to hit the hole. It is here James earns his keep, using his strength and toughness to gain yards by himself. This takes great balance as James knows he's going to sustain hits, and at times must act as his own blocker to gain yards after contact.
While James shows the ability to hit the outside edge in high school, his overall game is best suited between the tackles. He will have the occasional outside run, but there is no mistaking what makes James a special 'back.
As we stated before, James shows the willingness to block in both the running and passing game. Because of this, he'll have a chance to earn early playing time as most 'backs coming out of high school have never been asked to throw their bodies into the line of fire.
The one area of concern is in the passing game as we're not sure how well James is able to catch a ball or run routes.
James' pledge to the Irish was a surprise, but it's easy to see why Notre Dame took its time to check him out over the past year. Kelly's Irish have found success with a power 'back and James will have a chance in future years to do the same.
James has the physical size you like to see out of runner and he does a great job of using a few quick steps to hit his stride. While we're not sure of a 40-yard dash time for James, he shows on film the ability to break away from defenders while playing against solid competition.
What really sets James apart from others I've seen recruited over the years is his physical toughness from the running back position. This kid loves contact and shows a high level of toughness at an early stage.
One concern about this pledge is the fact James has yet to visit the Notre Dame campus. That will come this fall as it looks like the Irish are loading up for another big recruiting weekend when Michigan comes to South Bend.