James Finding Familiar Ground

With less than three weeks until one of the biggest opening games in recent Washington football history, coaches admit that there are position battles all over the field. One area that seems to be in good hands right now is the running back position. Sophomores Kenny James and Shelton Sampson, along with Junior Chris Singleton and Redshirt Freshman Louis Rankin make up the deepest Husky backfield in almost a decade.

James seems to have the inside track to start in the backfield on September 5th against his hometown team Fresno State, but James is taking nothing for granted.

"All four running backs are looking good right now. We're all in shape, we've all gotten a lot better since last year, and we've all gotten faster and stronger, so we've got to play it out and see (who starts)," Kenny told Dawgman.com

James spent the summer in Seattle and feels much more comfortable this season heading into camp.

"Last year I really didn't know what the coaches expected of me. Coming into this year I knew what they expected me to do because I've been here for a long time. Last year I was just getting familiar with the system," James said. "I'm a veteran and I know what to expect and I know what to do now."

Running Backs Coach Cornell Jackson likes his stable of backs and James seems to be first and foremost in his mind.

"What I expect to see out of Kenny is a guy, first of all, who isn't going to put the ball on the ground," Jackson said. "Secondly, I want a guy who gets vertical. Third, I want a guy who gets the tough yards."

Getting the tough yardage is something that James has prepared his body for this season.

"Right now I'm at 210 (pounds)," James said. "I feel great about it. Hopefully I can gain about another five pounds and make sure I maintain my weight for the season."

When asked about the game against Fresno State, James' face lights up and he seems excited to be playing against the school he grew up watching.

"I'm going against my hometown team," James stated. "That's the biggest motivation there is. It's here at Husky Stadium, 70,000 (fans) strong, and our fans will be screaming all over the place."

In 2003 James rushed for 530 yards and two touchdowns despite only starting the final five games of the season, and his expectation is that he will have fun in the Huskies' new offense.

"I'm real excited," Kenny said. "Coach (John) Pettas has got a mastermind when it comes to putting together plays. We're just excited to get this thing on the road."

Whoever the starter is, he will be pushed this fall by the three other backs behind him. According to James, each has improved a lot.

"All of the running backs are looking good right now. (Shelton) Sampson put on a little weight. Louis is looking explosive and (Chris) Singleton is always looking good."

Jackson will have some tough choices to make as training camp progresses, but his problem is a dilemma that most coaches would love to have.

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