Stopping the run is imperative to ensure success. In few leagues is that more apparent than in the Southeastern Conference.
That entire process starts at the interior of the defensive line so that opposing guards and centers are occupied so linebackers may roam free and make plays.
Leading the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 12-4 record in the 2005 season was former Tennessee Volunteer and defensive tackle John Henderson and his second Pro Bowl season. In front of former Vol and current All-Pro Jerod May is behemoth Vince Wilfork.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley and his staff are hoping senior Malik Jackson and junior college transfer Maurice Couch can be that kind of player at the center of the Big Orange defense in 2011. However, future Vol rosters need beef up front and no DT is committed right this second.
Getting a player like Nick James out of Long Beach, Miss., would certainly be a step in the right direction. Watch Video on No. 71 wreaking havoc.
James told InsideTennessee.com that he gets messages on Facebook from UT staff members and noted the recruiting efforts of defensive line coach Lance Thompson.
When asked for a list of the top schools who are gaining his interest, James said: “I’m not sure, I haven’t even really thought about it. It’s still open.”
While James is taking his father’s advice and keeping his options for his next stop open, he does have a good idea as to what he wants out of an institution.
“The area, the academic program and the football program,” he said.
It’s no easy task for a DT to arrive at an SEC school and work his way into the two-deep but James isn’t asking for promises of immediate game action.
“Playing time, I’ve been trying to train real hard this offseason so I can be the best of the best,” said James, who ranks in at No. 110 in the Scout 300. “If a guy is better than me and starts over me then it’s better for the team, but hopefully, coach will play the best player at that position.”
Summers on the recruiting circuit stashed in a car or van hitting the road to camps or for unofficial visits can sometimes hinder the physical growth of a prospect, but James insists he is still hitting the weights hard in preparation for his final year of high school ball.
“Yes sir, I’ve been hitting the weights pretty heavy,” he said. “My squat improved and my bench – I’m finally working out with 235 (pounds). So, you know, I’m getting up there.”
Although the four-star prospect admitted he hasn’t maxed out on the bench press lately, he estimated his top number to be in the 405-pound range with a squat reaching approximately 550.
At 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, the mountain of a young man said he pondered dropping weight before his Long Beach Senior High School season gets underway but decided he wants to “use my weight as an advantage and get in shape with it.”
The Long Beach Bearcats were Class 5A, Region 4’s champions in 2010 but were ousted in the opening round of the MHSAA state playoffs by eventual state runner-up Brookhaven.
James believes his team is up for a highly-successful 2011 campaign.
“We’re going to be dominating,” James said matter-of-factly, mentioning outside linebacker Richie Brown, cornerback Marcus Betts, running back Milton Britton and quarterback Thad Miller.
James, ranked the 14th best DT in the country, said he likely will not commit to signing a letter of intent with anyone until after his senior season and will not be enrolling into college early.