The Ronnie James that could return to action as early as next week is a changed man from the freshman that enrolled at Rutgers 14 months ago.
James started his Rutgers career as a 175-pound cornerback forced into early action. When he returns from injury as a sophomore, it's after an offseason of dramatic changes.
“To be honest I'm way more excited to play this year just because the defense kind of switched up totally,” James said. “We went from an NFL-style defense last year to a simpler one this year. It's a lot easier to understand. When you hop on the field, you won't be as nervous to get in games.
An offseason groin surgery knocked James out for training camp, but he expects to be back when Rutgers breaks camp and transitions to game week.
“I'm feeling pretty good,” James said. “I feel like I'm about 100 percent back right now but I still have to wait a couple of weeks before I can get back on the field.
On the brink of 200 pounds after his first college offseason, James did not lose any speed and is only stronger because of it, he said.
“My focus was definitely to get bigger,” James said. “I didn't expect to get to the size that I am now. That's probably one of the main reasons I switched from cornerback to safety. I put on about 20 pounds. With doing so, I lost some mobility in my hips. I still have the speed but my hips weren't there as much.
“... I wouldn't say there's too much of an adjustment for me moving to safety again. All four years of high school, I played safety, so when I got switched to corner at Rutgers, that threw me off a little bit. Back at safety, I feel a lot better.”
James lost an on-campus mentor when older brother Paul James graduated at the end of last season, but he gained three veteran defensive-back minds in the coaching change.
“It's way better learning wise,” James said. “Even if you mess up at one aspect of what you're learning, you have three coaches who can feed you new information. I can get points from coach [Bill] Busch and coach [Aaron] Henry all the time and coach [Chris] Ash knows a lot about it too. Having three different coaches, especially with the head coach being there, you have three different outlooks. You have a wider range of views to understand what you're doing on the field.”