Tar Heel coach John Bunting said, “[James] can put his foot in the ground and get up field quickly. He can take a four-yard gain and make it into a 15-20-yard game in a hurry. So you’ve got to be sound. You’ve got to surround him.”
There was a time when the Tar Heels (1-3, 0-2 ACC) could boast a 1,000-yard rusher (or two) practically every year. However, Jonathan Linton was the last to accomplish the feat in 1997, and Carolina’s backs are off to a sluggish start if the drought is to be snapped this season.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes’ (2-2, 0-1 ACC) ground game has rarely skipped a beat. Miami has produced 1,000-yard rushers six times in the last 10 seasons. Over that span, its backs have averaged 5.5 yards per carry. All-time, 37 Miami running backs have been drafted by professional teams.
If his first collegiate start last Saturday in UM’s 14-13 win over Houston is any indication, then the 6-feet, 202 pound newcomer from Immokalee, Fla., is the next in line.
A solid inside the tackles runner with great cutting ability, James – nicknamed “Baby J” – set a Miami freshman record with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Cougars. The performance also set a school mark for the most yards in a first career game.
Miami coach Larry Coker said, “Javarris not only set the record, but he had no negative yards. As I characterize the great backs I’ve been around, they could take a two-yard loss and make a four-yard gain out of it. I think Javarris has that ability.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “I’ve been around some great backs in my career. Sometimes you see those guys and you don’t have to study it very long before you know this guy is special. Call it a sixth sense or whatever it may be, but they have a knack of turning plays.”
In high school, James – a top 15 player in the state of Florida – missed five games during his senior year due to a knee injury, but recovered and returned to rush for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. In one game and on just 12 carries, James rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s got a great burst,” Bunting said. “He’s got the kind of speed that can break it. He’ll break some tackles, too. He’s got good vision.”
James has sat out most of practice this week in Coral Gables to rest a deep leg bruise, but is fully expected to start Saturday.