39 days to Camp Rantoul

Counting down the 50 most important Illini

No. 39: Paul James, defensive end

Why he’s important: Has the size and speed to become an instant contributor on defense. Tim Beckman showed he wasn’t shy in playing freshmen last season. If everyone stays healthy, which wasn’t the case last season, James might not see the field much in 2013. That being said, his mere talent could allow him to spell Houston Bates at the Leo position, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, especially with the May dismissal of Darrius Caldwell. He didn’t arrive early like nearly half of the Class of 2013 recruits did, so he has to play a bit of catch-up this summer, but don’t be surprised if he’s a newcomer who makes some noise at Camp Rantoul.

Fast fact: James made the Illinois coaches happy less than a week before National Signing Day. Very happy. He chose the Illini ahead of offers from the likes of Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Texas A&M, among others, and was the last player locked up in the class.

Tomorrow: No. 38

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