Tom: First of all James, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.
Tom: What was your favorite thing about playing for Virginia Tech last season?
James: Probably the fans, just the Virginia Tech atmosphere and playing at Lane Stadium. I’d rather play in our stadium than anywhere else in the country.
Tom: You’ve been productive both seasons you’ve been at Virginia Tech even though last year was your first full season as a starter, do you expect an even more significant break-out year this season?
James: Definitely. I think the thing that hurt me last year was my injury, I missed 3 games and I still led the team in sacks. I’m healthy now though.
Tom: What is your accurate height, weight, and 40 yard dash time?
James: 6’4”, right now I weigh about 266 or 267 and the last time I ran I ran a 4.45 40 yard dash time, but I think I only weighed 257 or 258 at that point.
Tom: You “only” weighed 257 or 258 pounds and you ran in the 4.4’s, Josh Gordon just ran a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash at his pro-day and got drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and he weighs 40 pounds less than you!
James: Well I’ve always been fast though, even when I was in high school I was running in the 4.4’s but I guess I never got slower since all I’ve gained since coming to Virginia Tech is muscle.
Tom: Do you have any statistical goals for yourself or the team?
James: For the team I just want to be the #1 defense in the nation, or at least top 5. For myself I just want to have a better season than I did last year and continue to improve. I think if I stay healthy I’ll be better than I was last year and put myself in a good position.
Tom: What was it like watching Logan Thomas progress and grow as the season went on last year?
James: It was great. It was great watching him get acclimated to defenses but I think it was the Miami game where he really showed everyone what he could do.
Tom: Did he look even better in the spring?
James: You can tell he’s more comfortable and I think he’s getting better every day.
Tom: Everyone just kind of assumed he was going to play tight end when he was coming out of high school and now he’s one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, it’s crazy.
James: I knew he was going to play quarterback because I played in an all-star game with him in high school, haha.
Tom: Well then you knew something I didn’t! Now did your defensive coaches mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?
James: Yeah they said I’m starting to get the little things down like my technique and my angles. I feel like I did an overall better job of that in the spring than I did in the past.
Tom: What kind of technique stuff did they specifically say you were improving on?
James: Just when I’m pass rushing taking the right angles. I usually just get by with my speed but that’s not going to work with every tackle so I’m just trying to get better with my hands and trying to take better angles to get to the quarterback.
Tom: That’s great to hear, that’s what you need to be a complete defensive end. You’re going to be scary when you get that technique down James.
James: Haha, well I’ve been working on it all summer.
Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a football player? Maybe your speed?
James: Yeah my speed, I’m just a natural pass rusher.
Tom: What about some of the things you think you need to work on? Obviously you’ve already mentioned technique.
James: Yeah, I mean I really haven’t been playing football that long to be honest my first season was my junior year in high school so basically I didn’t really have anybody to actually coach me up or teach me the position. Then I redshirted when I got to Virginia Tech and they don’t really teach you anything when you redshirt so I was just learning how to play the position my redshirt freshman year.
Tom: Do you have any mentors for the defensive end position? People you’ve patterned your game after?
James: Oh yeah definitely. Coach [Charley] Wiles the defensive line coach, Cornell Brown has been really instrumental and then I watch a lot of film of Bruce Smith since he played here.
Tom: What is one thing that every defensive end has to have in order to be successful?
James: I think he has to be aggressive. That’s something you can’t really teach a guy to be honest. There are a bunch of guys that have ability but they’re not aggressive, but then there are guys that have less ability but are more aggressive and I think that’s important. I feel like that’s something you can’t teach, but I think that also goes for every position.
Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?
James: Antone Exum. I think he’s going to be one of the best corners in the nation this year, him and Kyle Fuller. Antone runs a 4.3 and he’s like 225 pounds. He’s a good corner. Kyle is really good too he plays a lot bigger than he is. I’ve seen him lay some guys out that he was much smaller than.
Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?
James: The running backs J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, then Logan Thomas. The receivers too, I know Marcus Davis is going to have a big year. For the most part our offense is going to do pretty well.
Tom: I’m sure Hokie fans will be encouraged to hear that the running backs look good since you just lost David Wilson and Josh Oglesby.
James: Yeah it’s pretty different because when I came here I played against three All-American running backs. I played against Darren Evans first, then Ryan [Williams] and then David [Wilson]. So I’m pretty sure one of those guys is ready to step up next.
Tom: You’re getting some hype coming into the season, do you feel any added pressure because of some loftier expectations?
James: No not at all. I feel like I’m just going to play my game. I feel like the expectations that people have for me coming into the season aren’t any higher than the expectations I already have for myself, so it’s not any different. I feel like I should be one of the best defensive ends in the country and I feel like I should be an All-American.
Tom: I know you saw me mention that you and J.R. Collins are one of the best defensive end tandems in college football, what do you think makes him so dangerous?
James: J.R. Collins is relentless. I totally agree that we’re a great tandem too because I think that J.R. Collins’ name should be up there with any of the best defensive ends in the ACC this year. He’s relentless, he’s hard-nosed and if I could pick anybody to play on the opposite side of me it would be him.
Tom: That’s a glowing recommendation. And I was just looking at your defensive line depth chart last night and it occurred to me that you guys could have one of the best defensive lines in the country as well. Do you think that’s possible?
James: I definitely think it’s possible. I feel like if it weren’t for my injury last year we would have been one of the best in the country from a pass rush standpoint.
Tom: And then you have the Hopkins brothers. You guys have a lot of returning experience on that defensive line.
James: Yeah the Hopkins brothers! I feel like our defensive line is going to be one of the best of the country. Both of them are really good players, and then we’ve got Luther Maddy who started last year as a true freshman at defensive tackle, so we essentially have a couple starters at second string.
Tom: Ok, who are the rotational guys behind you and J.R.?
James: Tyrel Wilson is the guy behind me, he did well last year. And behind J.R. is Zack McCray, plus we have another defensive end named Dadi Nicholas who redshirted last year.
Tom: Did you say his first name is Dadi? That’s AWESOME!
James: Yeah his first name is Dadi, haha.
Tom: What is it like playing for Bud Foster in his aggressive defense? I imagine it’s pretty fun.
James: Oh definitely, because I feel like I’m a pretty aggressive player so coming to school with an aggressive defensive coordinator it just matches. So I really enjoy playing for him.
Tom: Are you comfortable buzzing into coverage? Foster likes to bring zone blitzes so I know he asks you to drop sometimes.
James: Yeah definitely I feel really comfortable dropping into coverage. At first when you don’t do it for a while it’s weird but I’ve been doing it all summer since I’ve been working out with the DB’s so I’m comfortable doing it.
Tom: Uh-oh… I hope they don’t move you to safety James. You’ve got the speed for it after all.
James: Hahaha. I don’t think I’m ready for some of these little receivers though!
Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to? Maybe Clemson?
James: Oh yeah definitely Clemson. They had our number last year but this year they gotta be ready to go to war.
Tom: You and Tajh [Boyd] go back to high school I’m sure you want to get a W against him.
James: Oh Tajh? Yeah definitely. I’ve been playing him since high school but I’ve never been able to beat him.
Tom: I think this year might be the year then James.
James: Yeah, hopefully.
Tom: You’ve got a pretty good football pedigree with your dad Jimmy playing running back at Ohio State from 1979-82 and your Uncle Shaun playing DB for the Buckeyes and in the NFL from 1984-95 as well. Do you think that has helped you pick up the game so quickly?
James: Absolutely. I feel like I have strong football bloodlines since both my father and uncle played at Ohio State. I think my dad was an All-Big Ten running back so that might be where I get my speed from. Actually in high school my father was one of the fastest backs in the nation. I think that’s where the speed came from.
Tom: I definitely think that could be where you got your speed from.
James: Yeah I’d say that’s it, haha.
Tom: I read in an article that before you started playing football you were “more of a video game guy” and that after you got done with video games you said “I think I’ll just play football.” How did that come about?
James: I really wasn’t that interested in playing football when school first started so I just played video games. Then I got tired of that and just decided to play football, but I had never lifted weights or anything so I was like 160 pounds at the end of my 10th grade year. So I just started lifting weights and eating right and by the beginning of my senior year I was like 210. Now that I’m over 260 I’ve put on over 100 pounds of muscle since high school.
Tom: And you haven’t lost any speed, that’s the scary thing. Now, do you still play video games? If so, what’s your favorite game to play?
James: Nah, I guess I kinda played myself out of that. I guess I play some NCAA. They’ve got me rated as one of the best defensive ends on the game so that’s good.
Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?
James: Man, that’s tough. I guess that I can actually run a 4.4 because every time I get on the internet I see people saying I run a 4.7 or something like that. I want people to know that I have that kind of speed because that’s what I take pride in.
Tom: I had definitely read that you had 4.4 speed, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to believe that a 260 pound defensive end had 4.4 speed, that shit scares me.
James: Well I’ve seen guys at 270 be timed in the 4.5’s! It’s possible, there are guys that can do it. I guess we’ll see if I get my shot at the combine.
Tom: Well I predict that you will, that’s my prediction. It’s not bold, but it’s a prediction.
James: Haha, we’ll see.
Tom: I just want you to realize how unfair it is that you can run a 4.4 at that size, even a 4.5 would be just disgusting.
James: Well I’m very confident I can run a 4.5. I’ve never ran a laser 40 time, but I know I can do it.
Tom: Well that’s about all I have, do you have any questions for me?
James: No I don’t think so.
Tom: Well thank you for your time James, I appreciate the chance to talk with you a little more in depth. When does camp start up for you?
James: August 7th, I’m getting ready.
Only a couple weeks away! I’m ready for some football. Well good luck with the rest of your training and good luck this season!
James: Thanks! It was great talking to you.
Tom: You’re welcome, it was great talking with you as well. Take care.