While it is hard to pinpoint that many glaring needs on the Eagles roster, it is worth noting some prospects Eagles fans should be interested in heading into the season. As we get closer to the beginning of college football, I want to highlight some of the more intriguing prospects in the country. Here is one of the most dynamic players in the country that needs to be getting more recognition.
Name: Richie James
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Middle Tennessee
Measurements: 5-9, 180 Pounds
2016 Stats: 105 Receptions, 1625 Yards, 12 Touchdowns, 38 Carries, 339 Yards, 4 Rushing Touchdowns
Have you heard of Richie James yet? Because it might be time to get familiar. The Blue Raider has been one of the most productive players in the country over his first two years at MTSU. James has caught 213 passes for almost three thousand yards and twenty touchdowns through the air while rushing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns in that span. He is a little dynamo with the ball in his hands and MTSU makes it a priority in their offense to feed him. James lined up in the slot, on the outside, at running back and even took a few snaps at quarterback to run the wildcat or do some trick plays (he completed six passes on seven attempts in 2016). James is a dynamic athlete who can flip the field every time he touches the ball.
There is rarely anything fancy about James before the catch. MTSU often runs him on simple shallow routes just to get the ball into his hand and let him make magic after he secures the ball.
Once again, nothing fancy about this route. He gets just enough separation on the break due to a big cushion and he uses his ability to create yards with the ball.
This is not to say his game is simple and unrefined, just that the way that MTSU uses him prioritizes high percentage plays that can get him easy volume as a player. James can make plays down the field too.
The speed in which James runs the out and go are very impressive. Them to find the ball so quickly and make a play on the sideline is a glimpse at James' ability to do so much more as a receiver than just be an intermediate threat.
James is a smaller receiver which may lead people to worry about his toughness or physicality.
This play is really a nice summation of Richie James as a player. He fights his way through some pretty handsy press coverage to secure a catch through contact and make a huge play afterward. James is definitely a fighty player who will rise above his measurables and make an impact whenever he gets the ball.
James is very clearly a natural with the ball in his hands. MTSU expanded his role rushing the ball during his sophomore season so it would not be surprising to see this aspect of his game be utilized even more in 2017.
James, despite his being a smaller player from a smaller program, is a stud. The variety in ways MTSU uses him and the constant need to put the ball in his hands should say enough about what they think of him and his constant ability to produce should suggest that defenses have no answer for him. He should explode in his junior season now that their other productive player from last season, I'tavius Mathers, is in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Jamison Crowder
Why should Eagles fans care?
I've discussed the lack of security at the wide receiver position for the Eagles. In short, the position right now is filled with a bunch of wild cards and there is no guarantee any one of them will be back next year. While the Eagles have a nice outlook for 2017 at the skill positions, it still makes sense to keep an eye on college football players who can boost the unit. James is a versatile, big play threat who can help the Eagles in a variety of ways all over the field.
What games will be pivotal for James?
Middle Tennessee does not get a lot of opportunities to showcase its talent against big time programs but 2017 looks like the perfect year for James to produce on a much bigger stage. MTSU opens its season against Vanderbilt on September 9th. James has seen Vanderbilt in his previous two years and wracked up 270 yards and a touchdown over those games. Can he bring that same level of play to an SEC opponent for the third year in a row? A few weeks later, MTSU travels to Minnesota to play the new look Golden Gophers (September 16th). Between facing a Big 10 and SEC defense at the beginning of the season, James has a chance to jumpstart the conversations about his potential in the NFL and assert himself as one of the best playmakers in the country.