There's been a strain of thought running through 2013 Harker Heights offensive lineman Darius James's recruitment holding that the 6-5, 330-pound lineman could play any position along the line at the college level.
Not a prevailing thread, but a thread nonetheless.
The thought here is that James is better suited for the interior, but those who believe he could play some outside at tackle got some evidence to that effect when the longtime Texas commit started at left tackle at the 2013 Under Armour All-America Bowl last Friday in Florida.
James was the only Texas commit at the event for some behind-the-scenes reasons and represented himself well. One observer buys into the "James anywhere" theory:
Texas getting a good one in Darius James - Agile Big man - showing the ability to play any position along the OL & be very good #Longhorns— Craig Haubert (@CraigHaubert) January 1, 2013
SB Nation Recruiting's own Bud Elliott weighed in with his opinion:
I was excited to see Darius James, as he was one of the few players in attendance from Texas. He's a big, wide body, but not sloppily so considering the broken foot he suffered. I liked James' toughness and willingness to compete. He anchored well against opposing rushers. James was playing out of position at tackle, which I found odd because the team struggled with snaps all week and I wanted to see him at center. But he handled playing tackle about as well as an interior lineman could, given the freakish rushers they were forced to face. James has heavy hands and should be a very good one for Texas.
James, of course, missed almost all of his senior season with the broken foot that he suffered in the opening game of 2012 against Stony Point, so he's hardly in top physical condition right now.
But how did James perform, specifically?
He lost some battles against Robert Nkemdiche working in one-on-ones during practice (film here, which includes some victories, as well). Hardly surprising, as the former Clemson commit is simply a freak of nature and it's unlikely that any offensive tackles in the country would have much success against him in those practice situations that already heavily favor the pass rushers.
On other snaps, James was able to hold his own when he only needed a quick pass set and could get his hands on the defender. When he can do that, he was capable of handling some players much faster than him, even in those tough drills.
What he wasn't able to do at times was to kick step well enough to stop some of the edge rushers that he faced when they were able to take routes to the "quarterback" with disdain for any contain responsibilities that would normally constrain them during a game. It's probably also the case that James has little experience working in the pass sets required to go against elite linemen in unfavorable circumstances.
During the game, James held his own in the first quarter ($), according to Max Olson of ESPN:
He shined in the first quarter, holding off both ends with ease on his 12 snaps. Neither recorded a sack or even got close to taking down quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg and Cooper Bateman. Both ends stuck to trying to attack him with outside speed moves but had no luck. They didn't even test James inside. Frankly, neither could come up with a way to beat the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman.
It's not completely out of the question for James to be able to play right tackle if absolutely necessary, as evidenced by those results in practice and in the game. He just has a higher upside inside because he would have to reshape his body some to play tackle and would need more work on the techniques required there than he does inside.
Shape 30 pounds of excess weight into some functional strength and it's possible that James could pass set well enough to be serviceable on the edge. The mass that serves him well as a run blocker doesn't help so much at tackle.
The word from the Texas staff for some time is that they think he could have come in and started at center as a high school junior. A bit hyperbolic, perhaps.
Thing is, James is good enough he could break into the rotation as a freshman if he can get himself into a little bit better shape and show the technique and work ethic to progress quickly under the tutelage of Stacy Searels as an absolutely remarkable athlete for his size who can do work at the second level.
A fair number of ifs there. What isn't in doubt is the fact that he's one of the best interior prospects in the country because of that size/athleticism combination. Or the best interior prospect, if you're inclined to believe the 247Sports composite rankings.
So yeah, he's pretty good, any way anyone wants to cut it, and the UA game just provided more evidence of that fact.