POSITION: Wide receiver
HOMETOWN: Carol Stream, IL
HIGH SCHOOL: Glenbard North
247 COMPOSITE SCORE: .8438
NATIONAL RANKING: 986
POSITION RANK: 142
STATE RANK: 21
OTHER OFFERS: Ball State, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Fordham, North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Western Michigan
James played both wide receiver and cornerback in high school, but he’ll play receiver for the Wildcats. He’s the 12th-highest rated recruit in his class, and is rated just below Berkeley Holman, the other wideout in the class (they actually have the same 247 composite score).
On film, James’ ball skills are the first thing you notice. At 6-feet tall, he doesn’t have exceptional size for the position, but he makes up for it with his ability to high-point the football and make contested catches. His helps his quarterback really well on scrambles and extended plays, and was a great safety valve for his team when plays broke down. James also has good speed and can take the top off of a defense.
At the next level, the area James needs to improve most is his route running. He was able to make plays by being faster and more athletic than most of his high school opponents, but he won’t have that kind of advantage in the Big Ten. If he can get in and out of routes quicker and improve his footwork, he’ll be a much more complete player; there won’t be as many opportunities for long-developing routes at the collegiate level.
Like most freshmen, James will probably redshirt next season. Austin Carr and Andrew Scanlan will both be gone next season, but a host of contributors return out wide. Flynn Nagel, Bennett Skowronek, Solomon Vault, Macan Wilson and Charlie Fessler will all return next season. Redshirt freshmen Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Riley Lees will enter the fold. The arrow is pointing up for the Northwestern passing game after it made major strides last season, and James could certainly be a part of that in the years to come, even if he doesn’t contribute next season.