James Banks Is Focused On Playing QB At UT

Because there is a plethora of playing possibilities this season for Indianapolis high school All-American quarterback James Banks Jr., he is preparing for all of them but he doesn't see himself catching passes at this point.

Depending on what develops this season, Banks could become a third-team quarterback who would only be activated in an emergency. Or he could beat out transfer signal caller C.J. Leak, who struggled this spring in the back-up role behind Casey Clausen. Gridiron gods forbid, if Clausen is sidelined via injury for a play, a game or a season, Banks could be asked to take over what is perhaps the most potent offense in all of college football.

Suffice it to say, with only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, Banks' value to the Vols is too great for him to jump into the wide receiver race. He didn't play that position at Ben Davis High School, where he led the Giants to a 42-2 record in four years as starting quarterback, and the task of learning an offensive system as sophisticated as Tennessee's is too challenging for the divided attention of a true freshman — regardless of his talent level.

No doubt Banks, who has grown into a solid 6-3, 200-pound athlete, would be a factor in a wide receiver rotation that is still unsettled, if he devoted himself exclusively to that duty. The multi-talented Banks, who has proven that he can play quarterback, defensive back and special teams, flashed big-time potential while filling in at wide receiver during the National High School All-Star Game last January. However he's giving more thought to challenging Clausen for the starting job than he is to playing second fiddle to Kelley Washington.

"Right now they want me to just get in there and learn as quick as I can and whatever happens, happens," Banks said of the learning curve at quarterback. "For me, I'm going in there trying to be the guy. I know it's going to be kind of hard to do, but I believe in myself. I'm just going to try to go in there learn as much as I can under Casey and C.J. and just try and come up through the ranks."

Banks visited the UT campus this weekend for a couple days with his father, James Banks Sr., who was working at Pat Summitt's basketball camp. During his stay in Knoxville he got to spend time with some of his future teammates and even worked out in passing drills with members of the team.

"My dad went to Pat Summit's camp and I just went down there and hung out with some of the guys," Banks said. "They just showed me around. We worked out a little bit and I threw a little bit to the freshmen receivers. I just had a good time down there, It got me more excited to go."

Among the players Banks "hung out with" were Clausen, running back Cedric Houston and WR/RB Derrick Tinsley.

"I like throwing to all the receivers," he said. "We've got a bunch of young guys learning under Kelley and he and the guys I've thrown to will be ready from what I could tell by throwing to them."

Banks has been pouring over the Tennessee play book in his spare time and is focused fully on playing quarterback. He didn't even take a turn catching the ball during UT's informal workouts last weekend.

"No, I didn't catch any passes," he said." My arm feels good. I've got a lot more to work on before I go in there contending for the job, but I'm going to try and go in there and be ready."

Banks also attended the Tennessee-Kentucky High School All-Star Game played Friday night at Neyland Stadium and came away impressed by fellow incoming freshmen Gerald Riggs, LaRon Harris and James Wilhoit. That talented trio of Tennessee natives is expected to play as true freshmen and Banks hopes to join them in active duty. But he also knows that a redshirt year is a distinct possibility.

"It all depends on how the season turns out," he said. "If it works out that I don't have to redshirt, then I would not want to redshirt. But if I have to, that's just what I have to do."

It seems doubtful Banks will be put on the shelf this season. After all, there's a better chance he'll become a star somewhere in college over the next four years than there is he'll stay in college five years.


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