Ja'Wuan James quickly settling into role

Dooley 'comfortable' with freshman

Ja'Wuan James during warms ups at practice.

Photo by Saul Young

Ja'Wuan James during warms ups at practice.

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Tennessee didn't need any reminders in the spring.

It was obvious enough of the time that Ja'Wuan James was a true freshman and prone to some mistakes that there was no confusing his class.

The starting right tackle might still miss a few assignments once he gets on the field for the Vols for the first time Saturday against UT Martin (TV: VideoSeat PPV; 6 p.m.), but it appears to already be more difficult for coach Derek Dooley to remember just how young James really is.

"We laughed about it in a staff meeting," Dooley said. "We act like the guy's a junior because he's like one of our veterans. He's been here seven months, not two months. He's extremely mature, he's very balanced, he's intelligent and he's going to be a really good player. I don't know how he's going to perform Saturday, and so I'm not going to be surprised if we go in a little rat-trapping. That's what happens.

"I'm as comfortable as probably any coach could ever be with a true freshman starting at right tackle. But Ja'Wuan could barely breathe in the mock game from anxiety, and there was nobody in the stands. You can't forget he's a true freshman."

The more that slips Dooley's mind though, the better off the Vols will be as they unveil their totally rebuilt and heavily scrutinized offensive line against the Skyhawks.

Perhaps the single biggest question mark about UT throughout the offseason was how well its young group would come together in front of both a new quarterback and running back, and James might be the clearest example of progress after speeding through the learning curve after spring camp.

The monstrous 6-foot-7, 313-pounder obviously has the size to play tackle, and his four-star rating out of high school suggested the skills as well. But like the rest of the line, there's no experience to really speak of - other than the work in practice against a handful of defensive ends who can easily simulate the challenges of an SEC game.

"I think he's ready to start in this conference," UT senior Chris Walker said. "During the spring there were times when you could tell that he was supposed to be in high school (at that point). But going up against guys like Gerald (Williams) and Malik (Jackson) when he got here, and me and Ben (Martin), I think he's gotten a lot more stronger with the scheme that he's in.

"He's come into his own playing on that offensive line, and I think that's helped him out a lot. I think he's going to be ready for the speed of the game, I think he's going to be ready for the strength of the game, so I think he did a good job this summer. I'm really proud of Ja'Wuan because he's a guy that I've built a good relationship with and I'm proud to see how much he's grown."

James doesn't have a lot of room to do much more of it physically, but he still has a clean slate when it comes to production and plenty of time to develop into an elite tackle.

On the other hand, the Vols can't really afford to wait long for him to get settled and catch his breath when Neyland Stadium actually fills up this weekend. They need him to look like a junior right away.

"You wouldn't know that he's a true freshman right out of high school," Williams said. "That's one guy that picked up really, really fast.

"He's going to be a great help for us, and I feel very good about him."

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Comments » 26

VolFanNC writes:

OL will be good by mid-season. we are pretty fortunate for next 3 years on OL. this year is big question mark. next year strength of the team

UTByrd writes:

Lead us to the Promise Land, Ju'Wuan.
Go VOLS!!!!!

AWOLVol writes:

I think this big man will play well in the first half of the season. And then, once he realizes he can play in the SEC - and I mean he really believes in himself - we'll all be witnesses to the beginnings of yet another dominant All American O-Lineman's career at Tennessee.

UTByrd writes:

I know we haven't played the first game yet, but, looking to next year, if we get some DT's as good as Ju'Wuan, this team could become dangerous. I'm ready for some football!
Go VOLS!!!!!

HtownVol writes:

James will be a four year starter. I hope that Stone gets into the rotation also. After next years class we will have talent but still not much experience. Go ahead and get PT for these young guys when the chance is there. These young O-Linemen are the key to the future of UT football.

mdvol writes:

Vols 38 - Skylarks 7
This year's team is going to be good.
Next year's team is going to be better
Two years from now we are going to be great!

Meanwhile....this year....
We are going to surprise some damn people.
We will upset either Florida or Alabama.

HollySpringsVOL writes:

Just give your all for Tennessee and everything will work out.

rudy123 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

James will be a four year starter. I hope that Stone gets into the rotation also. After next years class we will have talent but still not much experience. Go ahead and get PT for these young guys when the chance is there. These young O-Linemen are the key to the future of UT football.

Sorry HtownVol, but James won't be a four year starter. He will leave following his junior year to go to the NFL. He will follow the path of Aaron Sears!!!!
Four years as a starter is wishful thinking.
I can only hope that you are right, though.

Loud_Proud writes:

maybe some of you can answer my question. Why does it seem like with other teams, when a freshman or a sophomore doesn't get a starting role, he sticks with it and supports his team. Yet, when a freshman or sophomore doesn't get the starting job at UT, it seems like they always transfer?? has anyone else noticed this trend?

bigorange61 writes:

in response to Loud_Proud:

maybe some of you can answer my question. Why does it seem like with other teams, when a freshman or a sophomore doesn't get a starting role, he sticks with it and supports his team. Yet, when a freshman or sophomore doesn't get the starting job at UT, it seems like they always transfer?? has anyone else noticed this trend?

Who for example?

Mobbdeep4life writes:

This O-line will be very good in the years to come. By mid-season James and the others will have experience. Barring injury the O-line could become the most consistent unit.

Loud_Proud writes:

in response to bigorange61:

Who for example?

well, just ppl like bryce brown for instance. Maybe i am totally in the dark on that question, but it just seems this way. and nick stephens, and bj coleman. there are quiet a few. lol

west_GA_Volsfan writes:

We need the Oline to come of age quickly this year. I believe that the quality of our season will be determined by the improvement in this part of the game. Well. Vol Fans, the time we have waited for since January has arrived IT'S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!!!! I had planned to be there for the start of the Dooley era, but my wife is having meniscus surgery Friday, so I will miss the game. However, found out tonight that I will see game on ESPN 360 for free on my laptop HOORAY! Y'all make lots of noise and think of Ole Georgia Dave while we kill the Skyhawks. GBO

VolinCalif writes:

in response to mdvol:

Vols 38 - Skylarks 7
This year's team is going to be good.
Next year's team is going to be better
Two years from now we are going to be great!

Meanwhile....this year....
We are going to surprise some damn people.
We will upset either Florida or Alabama.

Md you keep saying that. I have ask you before "Why not both?" But you fail to read my question it appears. We will win 7 maybe eight and a bowl game. That right there my friend would be a very good season for this year.

bigorange61 writes:

in response to Loud_Proud:

well, just ppl like bryce brown for instance. Maybe i am totally in the dark on that question, but it just seems this way. and nick stephens, and bj coleman. there are quiet a few. lol

Well, Bryce had a starting role, Coleman was an upcoming junior, and Stephens a senior.

CroKev writes:

Alright guys, I'm optimistic about the season as well. I really like the coaches we have but our talent level is just not there yet. And our future talent is far from where it needs to be. Right now our current recruiting class is ranked 11th in the SEC (yes, VandyGrad, you guys still get the award for being the bottom feeders). 5 SEC schools are in the top 10 and the SEC teams' national recruiting rankings are as follows:
#2 - Bama
#3 - LSU
#8 - Florida
#9 - Ole Miss (?!)
#10 - UGA
#14 - Auburn
#20 - Arkansas
#23 - Kentucky (?!)
#25 - Miss. St. (?!)
#32 - S. Carolina
#33 - UT
#?? - Vandy (not in top 50 - big surprise)
If the Gamecocks get Clowney they'll catapult up the list. Yes, UT is in the mix for a bunch of guys but so are most of the other SEC teams, esp. those in the top 10. We'll get a few but we won't get as many as we want with a poor season. This thing is going to take a while to get "shipworthy" again. I have no doubt that Dooley is the right guy (and so are his assistants) but our talent level is just not there yet. Beating either Bama or UF (even at home this year) is a big stretch. I'll be hoping for the wins but I know when to hedge my bets. This is a 3 or 4-year project.

cloudodust writes:

James has the ability to become an All-American at Tennessee. We would like this OL to grow up quickly but it's gonna take time. Here we go, GBO...

gnm53108 writes:

in response to cloudodust:

James has the ability to become an All-American at Tennessee. We would like this OL to grow up quickly but it's gonna take time. Here we go, GBO...

We're not unreasonable cloudo...we're givin em 8 more days.

vol88 writes:

I've been a crazy UT fan for decades. I've lost my temper, cried, yelled, kicked the radio and made many of my loved ones uncomfortable at times. Now that I'm older, I've tempered that somewhat. Over the last 3 or 4 years, the "NFL Training Camp" mentality of NCAA football has been tough for me to swallow at times. But now, with CDD at the wheel, I am truly excited to enjoy watching a team with good men of character who play like it's 4th and 1 on every play. I say play ball, Vols. GBO!

Docrok writes:

in response to CroKev:

Alright guys, I'm optimistic about the season as well. I really like the coaches we have but our talent level is just not there yet. And our future talent is far from where it needs to be. Right now our current recruiting class is ranked 11th in the SEC (yes, VandyGrad, you guys still get the award for being the bottom feeders). 5 SEC schools are in the top 10 and the SEC teams' national recruiting rankings are as follows:
#2 - Bama
#3 - LSU
#8 - Florida
#9 - Ole Miss (?!)
#10 - UGA
#14 - Auburn
#20 - Arkansas
#23 - Kentucky (?!)
#25 - Miss. St. (?!)
#32 - S. Carolina
#33 - UT
#?? - Vandy (not in top 50 - big surprise)
If the Gamecocks get Clowney they'll catapult up the list. Yes, UT is in the mix for a bunch of guys but so are most of the other SEC teams, esp. those in the top 10. We'll get a few but we won't get as many as we want with a poor season. This thing is going to take a while to get "shipworthy" again. I have no doubt that Dooley is the right guy (and so are his assistants) but our talent level is just not there yet. Beating either Bama or UF (even at home this year) is a big stretch. I'll be hoping for the wins but I know when to hedge my bets. This is a 3 or 4-year project.

Why is that Nick Saban can do it in 2 years, but Dooley is a minimum 3-4 years??? I disagree, I don't look for 12 wins this year but at least 10 next year is not beyond reason!

SIMSVOL writes:

Docrok - it's folks like you who will be whining the second things go south this season - and they will. Tennessee is at the bottom of the rebuilding curve. It's going to take time. 3-4 years is realistic. Dooley is the right coach at the right time - and he will bring the Vols back - in time.

Brillovol writes:

in response to Loud_Proud:

maybe some of you can answer my question. Why does it seem like with other teams, when a freshman or a sophomore doesn't get a starting role, he sticks with it and supports his team. Yet, when a freshman or sophomore doesn't get the starting job at UT, it seems like they always transfer?? has anyone else noticed this trend?

I'm assuming Bryce Brown, Aaron Douglass, and the QB's are ringing loud in your ears with this question. In the first two cases, they were talented enough to start and play well, but personal issues got in the way.

In the QB's case, you will see that quite often (see Brandon Stewart, Brent Schaeffer, etc.). It's not just our school, look at other schools as well. A QB's mentality is such that he feels like he is the best and if he's not he can make up the difference. If he doesn't start and sees a bleak future, a transfer is the easiest way out. Personally, I want our QB's to have that arrogant mentality. A meek QB gets you nowhere. Say what you will about Casey Clausen, but he is undefeated in 3 road games against UF and Miami.

All that to say, don't get worried about transfers. We have also been through the most tumultuous time in our program that I can recall and turnover is common when you change leaders.

Back on topic, I agree with the other posters that by mid-season, the O-line is going to be our strong point. Personally, I'm not going to be disappointed in the losses so much as I am going to be excited about the wins.

DenverVol writes:

in response to vol88:

I've been a crazy UT fan for decades. I've lost my temper, cried, yelled, kicked the radio and made many of my loved ones uncomfortable at times. Now that I'm older, I've tempered that somewhat. Over the last 3 or 4 years, the "NFL Training Camp" mentality of NCAA football has been tough for me to swallow at times. But now, with CDD at the wheel, I am truly excited to enjoy watching a team with good men of character who play like it's 4th and 1 on every play. I say play ball, Vols. GBO!

Great post. Love the "made many...loved ones uncomfortable..." bit. I've been on both sides of that isle. lol.

Love the story KNS. Great job. Ja'Wuan is a stud and imo will become one of the 'greats'. Will be fun watching him dominate for the next few years. GO VOLS!

Down_The_Field writes:

all sec freshman team.

by the time this guy's a senior, there'll be a lot of o-line talent in this bunch and he'll be the leader.

Bogus writes:

James isn't the only one I can't wait to see tomorrow. Rivera at TE, Hunter and Rogers, Eric Gordon, would also like to see Palardy kick off. But the one I really anticipate is Herman Lathers on the weak-side. We could be seeing the makings of another Jerod Mayo when he played outside.

mikethehistorystudent writes:

in response to mdvol:

Vols 38 - Skylarks 7
This year's team is going to be good.
Next year's team is going to be better
Two years from now we are going to be great!

Meanwhile....this year....
We are going to surprise some damn people.
We will upset either Florida or Alabama.

I love the Vols also, but let's be real. Look at the schedule and the power we're going against. We may have more wins than losses this year, but not much better than that. I was hoping we could knock out SC this year, but Stevie's team looked strong last night. This is gonna be a rough year, and I hope fans will have patience with CDD. Next year will be better. I can see us as a top 5 team again in four years, but any expectation of things better than that are not realistic.

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