James ready for action

Wisconsin coach says senior defensive end is 100 percent and should be a force as a pass rusher

CHICAGO—For the past year, Erasmus James' status has been up in the air. No longer. Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez put aside any remaining doubts Wednesday, during the first day of the Big Ten's annual convention.

"He's full back 100 percent," Alvarez said during a press conference. "He received full clearance."

"He had the green light all summer, with the summer workout program," Alvarez added later, speaking informally with members of the local Madison media. "The only thing we didn't have him do is run the stadium steps with the team and that was just precautionary. But just talking with him yesterday—the doctors gave him clearance as far as the summer—but he said he did everything. He really had no pain and ran, did everything that was expected of him, lifted and felt great."

Alvarez added that James had gained 20 pounds since he last stepped on to the football field two years ago and now weighed in at 265 pounds. Back when he was 245 pounds, James ran a 4.6 40-yard dash.

"I thought going into last year he could have been one of the better pass rushers in this league, not just our team," Alvarez said. "He put on some good strength and size the year before. Now he's 265 pounds. I would anticipate if he even stayed close to his speed…If he picks things up right away and gets back into the groove, he could be a dominant player."

James took a medical redshirt last season after dislocating his hip in the beginning of fall camp. The decision to take the redshirt was not made until October, due to the befuddling nature of the injury, which did not respond to rehab or normal treatment. James was sent to a number of doctors and specialists. The final assessment, though, was that James simply had to rest and hope.

Alvarez did not get into many specifics regarding James' injury, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"I just know that with the hip joint, much like Bo Jackson, when you dislocate it, many times you have a blood flow problem," Alvarez said. "When you take the MRI and you don't see the blood flow, you don't want activity. There are very few doctors that know much about it. We sent him to a specialist in, I believe, New York to look at it. The bottom line is just staying off of it and continue to progress and get better. There's nothing you can do to rehab or anything else but the way I understood it, it was more about blood flow in the joint."

Alvarez said he ran into James in the UW weight room Tuesday, the Badgers' final day of summer conditioning.

"I think he's pretty fired up," Alvarez said. "(He) was chomping at the bit to get going."

James started 13 games and played in all 14 as a junior two years ago, recording 34 solo tackles, 23 assists and four sacks. He also caused two fumbles and broke up three passes. In 2001, James played in all 12 games, starting one, and tallied 36 total tackles, six sacks and three fumbles caused.

Assuming James earns a starting spot this fall, the Badgers will have four senior starters across the defensive line.

"He could really be a bonus for us coming back," Alvarez said.

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