Since announcing his decision to transfer from Pittsburgh in December, tailback Chris James said schools like Illinois, Indiana and a handful of other power-five Midwest schools have reached out to him to gauge his interest.
But the former Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame Prep standout only has one school that he’s looking at.
“For now, I’m going to Wisconsin,” James told BadgerNation. “That’s the plan.”
Wisconsin was one of James’ top schools coming out of high school, a prep career that saw him rush for 4,220 yards and 53 touchdowns as a three-year starter. He was ranked a four-star recruit by Scout.com in the 2014 signing class, not to mention ranked the No.22 tailback and the No.244 overall prospect.
James was high on the Badgers coming out of high school but committed to Pittsburgh over offers from Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse, Tennessee and many others.
Under the guidance of running back coach John Settle, James was a top reserve back for then-Pitt head coach Paul Chryst, rushing for 437 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games as a true freshman. Once Chryst, Settle and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph all left for Wisconsin for the 2015 season, James’ role diminished under new head coach Pat Narduzzi, finishing last season with only 253 yards on 56 carries and no touchdowns.
Once James decided he needed a fresh start, Settle was one of the coaches he gravitated to.
“Coach Settle is just a familiar face,” James said. “He was one of the guys who recruited me and brought me to Pittsburgh. We have an outstanding relationship. All the coaches (who left Pitt for UW) I have an outstanding relationship with. They were building that program and they wanted me to be a part of it. I’m just glad that I’m going to have the opportunity to be around some familiar faces.”
James said the decision to stay at Pittsburgh for the spring semester was twofold: he wanted to give his body a chance to rest (not in any immediate need to join a new program knowing he’d have to sit out a year per transfer rules) and to improve his academic standing to have a better shot at getting into Wisconsin.
“I want to make sure when I do choose my next school, there’s nothing holding me back,” James said. “To help transition better, I thought it would be better if I stayed here this semester instead. I was still on scholarship and I kind of needed that semester to get back where I was as far as my confidence.”
Excluding his redshirt season, James has two years of eligibility remaining. He plans to attend Wisconsin’s spring game tomorrow and return on an official visit to the school in the coming weeks.
He hopes to finalize his transfer to Wisconsin in time to begin summer workouts, spending the coming months getting acclimated to his new surrounding with an eye on replacing Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale in 2017.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that,” James said. “It works in my favor a little bit with (Wisconsin) losing two running backs. I’m excited to learn from them and use this year as a launching pad so I’m ready to go.”