Committed Over: Former Pittsburgh tailback Chris James committed to Wisconsin over interest from Illinois and Indiana. Coming out of Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame prep, James picked the Panthers over scholarship offers from Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, Tennessee and many others.
Rated: Out of high school, James was rated a four-star prospect and the No.2 tailback in Illinois, No.4 in the Midwest and No.22 in the country by Scout.com. He was also ranked the No.244 overall prospect in the 2014 class.
On Film: Coming out of high school, James weighed 212 pounds and was running consistently between 4.37 and 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. Described as young, big and fast with his breakaway speed, James hasn’t lost much of a step in the two years at Pittsburgh. Credited with tremendous work ethic, James has been described someone who eats, breathes and sleeps football, loves to train and desires to push himself to the max.
His football IQ is strong, evident by the fact that Pittsburgh felt strongly enough to play him in 13 games as a true freshman, generating 437 yards and four touchdowns. Replacing an injured James Conner in the second quarter of the Syracuse game that season, James rushed for a season-high 122 yards on 19 carries (6.4 avg.). In his collegiate debut, he had 77 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries (5.5 avg.). Those numbers back up the fact that James maximizes his carries and is a playmaker on the football field.
Recruiting Impact: Wisconsin has been hopeful since December that all the loose ends with James’ transfer will be ironed out and he’d get admitted into the school, making Friday a huge relief for the staff and a huge credit to James for the work he put in over the last semester. Wanting to take a running back every recruiting cycle, have the Badgers found their tailback for this class?
Considering the fact the UW is tight on scholarships (unofficially they have four remaining at this time for 2017), and the only one offer out is to a tailback (Deon Jackson) who doesn’t appear to be highly interested in the program at this time, the Badgers will likely start focusing on backs for the 2018 class.
Quotable: “(Coach Settle) 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.”
Final Thought: The timing of this could not have worked out better for James and Wisconsin. With Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale graduating after the 2016 season, the only experienced tailback on the roster would have been Taiwan Deal. Now James can come in, use the 2016 season to redshirt and learn the offense and be ready to contribute when needed in 2017. As he put it, he’s going to use this upcoming season as a launching pad into his redshirt junior year.
Many Wisconsin recruiting fans bemoaned the fact that former running back coach Thomas Hammock picked Caleb Kinlaw over James coming out of high school. They had to wait a couple extra years but it appears those fans have finally got their wish.