I will admit that I thought Banks would have to play one position period. Maybe that is why I am not the head coach of the Volunteers.
After only a few practices, it is obvious that James will be a great player as a receiver and a backup quarterback. It only hurts the team if he sits on the sideline all year long waiting on an injury to hit Casey Clausen.
Banks has shown a great ability to spit time between the two positions and not losing his feel for the two spots. In the first practice, in shorts and no shoulder pads mind you, Randy Sanders let James throw several passes but eventually gave in to curiosity and lined him up out wide. With his route running still not polished, Banks ran a go route and made a great catch over Shannon Benton. He then jogged back to the huddle. He caught his breath and lined up under center. He went right after Benton again. James dropped a short cross pattern pass over Benton's head that was caught by fellow sophomore Chris Hannon.
In front of many high school players last Saturday. Banks made two nice plays back-to-back at both positions. First James took a shotgun snap from Scott Wells at fired a 30 plus yard pass on a post pattern to Montrell Jones. There was a loud pop that came from the shoulder pads of Jones. Randy Sanders was so fired up that he yelled for Banks to split out wide. On the very next play, James took a hitch-and-go the distance darting past three secondary defenders.
Each time Banks completes a pass, Sanders allows a grin to creep across his face. Each time Banks lines up outside and catches a pass, Sanders just shakes his head. That might be because the offensive coordinator will be forced to guess how much is enough and how much is too much. With a playmaker like Banks, Sanders will have his hands full.
Obviously there is more time being invested in playing quarterback for James right now than there is wide receiver, but he will see action split out. He has a burst off the line that may not be rivaled by any other Vol wideout. It is clear that he will need to spend time with Casey Clausen this summer just running routes and getting used to catching passes from the West Coast QB on a consistent basis. This would allow James to go into fall practice not being forced to balance his practice time as much.
This situation really compares to the 1997 year as far as the quarterback position goes. Say Peyton Manning had left for the NFL following his junior year, who would have lined up under center? Tee Martin? Nope. Jermaine Copeland would have been the man. As the '97 season got older, Martin could have probably taken the reins, but for all practical purposes, Coach Fulmer had his second string quarterback as his second starting wide receiver. Martin's performance in the Orange Bowl made many forget about that, but Copeland was probably the ideal backup deep into the season in the minds of the coaching staff.
I understand it seems crazy to believe playing your backup quarterback at receiver on a fairly regular basis, but JB will be a big playmaker. His sophomore year cannot be spent on the bench. The only thing Vol fans can do is cross their fingers and hope that the injury plague of 2002 has left the building.
*Note from the Editor*
James Banks will grace the cover of the March edition of Rocky Top News that will hit newsstands in two weeks. Look for that later on this month. The InsideTennessee.com staff will have a picture of the new cover to view on this site when it becomes available. Feel free to call us at 1-800-828-8657 (VOLS) for any ordering information or click on the link below.