38 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 38: Paul James, DE
Why he’s important: He displayed some of his potential this spring. When he wasn’t sitting out practices because of academic issues. The Miami native is still a touch raw, but his athleticism and ability to get to the quarterback, along with making plays, came to light at times. Especially during the spring game, where he recorded two sacks and collected a fumble recovery. Not a likely starter this season, but could turn into one by the time the 2015 or 2016 season arrives. Could still factor into playing time at an end spot. Missing a year like he did last season probably cost him the chance to get acclimated with defensive coordinator Tim Banks’ system. And likely a chance to see the field as Illinois wasn’t shy about playing true freshmen. If he plays this season, and possibly sacks a few quarterbacks, don’t be surprised.
Fast fact: One of the more talented recruits in the Class of 2013, James never saw the field last fall. Academic issues caused him to miss out. But he still signed with Illinois when the Class of 2014 rolled around, and he’ll have five seasons to play four despite taking part in parts of preseason fall camp last year.
Last year’s ranking: No. 39
Tomorrow: No. 37