After a few adjustments, James gets his turn to start

Thursday, August 9, 2007
Jackson product Matt James is the projected starter at left guard. (AARON EISENHAUER ~aeisenhauer@semissourian.com)

The Jackson graduate, who has played in five games at tackle in his two years at Southeast, is on topof the depth chart at left guard.

In his first two years on campus at Southeast Missouri State University, Matt James didn't have a lot of opportunities to become an impact player.

That's all about to change.

James, who played in five games last year, has a chance to emerge in Southeast's retooled offensive line. The junior from Jackson is listed atop the depth chart at left guard.

"We're all real excited about the season," James said Wednesday during Southeast football media day at Houck Stadium. "We're working hard and we're excited to see what comes out of that."

The Redhawks will find out Aug. 30 when they play at Cincinnati, a Division I-A program that is a member of the Big East.

James, in particular, has put in hard work over \the last two years to prepare for this season.

"My freshman year, I had to sit out and get some stuff in order," James said. "Last year, it was a matter of getting used to it and learning the system. It's a big difference from high school. The speed of the game is a lot faster."

The trenches particularly are a place for well-developed upperclassmen who have spent plenty of time in the weight rooms, which is why James maintained his optimism during his first two years at Southeast.

"Obviously, going in, you want to play and do your best and help your team succeed," James said. "On the offensive line, the best players will play. I knew I could do it. And I knew it was going to take hard work on my part to be where I needed to be."

James, 6-foot-5, said part of that hard work included slimming down and getting ready for a new position. He is moving from tackle, where he played in high school and in the five games last year, to left guard. The Southeast Web site lists him at 320 pounds, while the media guide lists him at 300, and James himself says 310.

"I have had some weight loss, and I had to regain strength," James said. "I was a big 330, and when you have that kind of weight loss, it's hard to adjust."

Carl Gross, who coached James at Jackson, said the player's work in the weight room and his passion for the game left an impression.

"We were really impressed with him when we saw him this summer," Gross said. "Matt James really started working after the end of his sophomore year [in high school]. Coach Brandon Norman started working his tail off, and Matt wanted him to do that.

"What he's done since is really pay attention to conditioning and watching what he eats. He's not a blob; he can run."

The rebuilding is to get James ready to pull out of running backs like Tim Holloman.

"You've got to be quick and you've got have a good understanding of the game," James said of the guard spot. "You have to be agile. If you're going to get out in front of Tim, you've got to be quick."

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