Paul James

Illinois defensive end packs his bags and leaves Illini

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It may not have a tremendous impact on this upcoming season for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but losing depth on the defensive line is never a good thing. Such is the case for the Illini this week as Paul James III has packed up his things and left the program and university. The exact reason for the sudden departure is unknown at this point in time, but what we do know is this is not good news for head coach Tim Beckman and the hot seat he sits upon.

As noted by The Champaign Room, the loss of James means Illinois has no projected starter at defensive end in 2016, unless you count an incoming freshman in the Illini Class of 2016. Right now the Illini have a two-star prospect in Joshua Black heading their way, but that is hardly enough to fill the void of talent.

James was a three-star recruit in the Illini Class of 2013 out of Miami, Florida. According to his Rivals ranking, he was the 20th-best strong side defensive end in the country and it was likely he would be filling a starting job in 2016, if not sooner. Not only will his loss have a negative impact on the 2016 defensive line, but it also cuts into the depth on the roster this season, and there was not much depth to begin with.

Rutgers finishes successful first season in B1G with bowl victory

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The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were favored to finish dead last in the Big Ten East — including predictions by this very site — during the program’s first season in the conference.

Kyle Flood and his team exceeded expectations with an 8-5 record and a 40-21 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Quick Lane Bowl held in Detroit, Michigan.

With the bowl victory, Rutgers will finish fourth in the Big Ten East with the potential to own the fifth-best overall record in the entire conference.

The narrative was simple earlier this year: Rutgers was only added to the Big Ten Conference because of its footprint in New York City and New Jersey.

It just so happens that its a pretty good football program, too.

The victory over North Carolina also established early bragging rights for the Big Ten over the ACC.

The North Carolina Tar Heels dropped to 6-7 overall during a disappointing season. Larry Fedora‘s squad was a chic pick to be a Top 25 team this season and potentially steal an ACC Coastal Crown. Instead, the program finished third overall in one of the weakest divisions among the Power Five conferences.

After three straight seasons of diminishing win totals, Fedora will likely enter next season on the hot seat.

Rutgers was simply more physical at the point of attack than North Carolina. The Scarlet Knights ran for a whopping 340 yards. Freshman running back Josh Hicks amassed 202 yards on the ground.

North Carolina’s offense was dynamic at times, but the team’s defense simply didn’t show up and that falls directly on the head coach.

Flood, meanwhile, will enjoy the momentum his program built during its first year in the Big Ten both in recruiting and preparation for next season.

Rutgers loses star RB Paul James for the year

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Rutgers is off to a strong 3-1 start to its first Big Ten season, and that’s in part because running back Paul James was off to such a strong start to his junior season. The Scarlet Knights, however, will have to play the final two-thirds of their season without him as head coach Kyle Flood confirmed Sunday James has been lost for the season to a torn ACL.

James had carried seven times for 96 yards and a touchdown until the helmet of a Navy defender collided with James’ right knee at the end of a 13-yard run during the second quarter on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights won, 31-24, but James was not seen again throughout the day. As it turns out, that will unfortunately be the last anyone sees of James in a Rutgers uniform this season.

James entered the day as the Big Ten’s fifth-leading rusher, and finishes his season with 63 carries for 363 yards (5.76 yards per pop) with five touchdowns. He started the year with a 173-yard, three-touchdown performance, leading the Scarlet Knights to a 41-38 win at Washington State. James rushed for 881 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago while playing on a broken fibula.

Rutgers will now turn to Desmon Peoples (46 rushes, 205 yards) and Justin Goodwin (26 carries, 104 yards, one touchdown) to carry its ground game for the duration of the season.

Rutgers hosts Tulane on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPNews).

CFB after dark: Rutgers’ Kyle Flood gets big win, Vandy’s Derek Mason dealt big loss

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In case you fell asleep early last night (or at a reasonable hour, depending on your time zone)…

Rutgers running back Paul James rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns to pace the Scarlet Knights to a 41-38 win over Washington State at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, a hugely important win for Kyle Flood as he ushers his program into the Big Ten. Rutgers, roundly picked to finish last in the Big Ten East, looked like a team capable of bowl eligibility Thursday night in the Pacific Northwest.

On Rutgers’ first play from scrimmage as a Big Ten team, Gary Nova hit Leonte Carroo for a 78-yard touchdown. But it was James who took over, rushing six times on Rutgers’ game-winning drive (that was teed up when Washington State’s River Cracraft fumbled a punt) and scoring the go-ahead touchdown.

Granted, Washington State’s defense didn’t look good, but the Cougs were a bowl team a year ago and quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 532 yards and five touchdowns. Make no mistake, this was a good win for a Rutgers program that’ll be scrapping for bowl eligibility come November.

And over in Nashville, Derek Mason’s Vanderbilt debut was a disaster. In a game that didn’t kick off until 10:50 p.m. ET due to thunderstorms in the area, Temple embarrassed the ‘Dores 37-7.

It wasn’t necessarily that Temple played well — the Owls converted two of 17 third down chances and only gained 352 yards of total offense — but it was moreso that Vanderbilt played some awful, awful football Thursday night and into Friday morning. Vanderbilt players fumbled four times while Mason cycled through three quarterbacks, who combined to throw three interceptions.

Between the 30-point loss, shocking string of turnovers, storm-delayed game and the “ANCHOR DOWN” mess, things probably couldn’t have gone worse for Mason in his first game at Vanderbilt.

Oh yeah, and this game featured the first fat guy touchdown of the year.

Pair of Rutgers RBs battling shoulder issues

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Thanks to injury issues, the young depth in Rutgers’ backfield will get more than their share of reps and opportunities this spring.

With spring practice starting Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights confirmed that running backs Paul James and Savon Huggins are both dealing with shoulder issues.  As a result, the former will be limited throughout the spring while the latter will not participate at all in the 15 sessions.

How and when the twin shoulder issues surfaced is unknown.

Last season, and despite missing four games due to injury unrelated to his current condition, James led RU with 881 yards and nine touchdowns.  He was named first-team All-AAC in the Scarlet Knights final season in that conference before officially moving to the Big Ten July 1.  Huggins, a former five-star recruit, finished third on the team with 286 yards as he too was hampered by injuries.

In addition to James and Huggins, first-team All-AAC tight end Tyler Kroft (shoulder) along with a pair of defensive starters — defensive end Quanzell Lambert (shoulder) and linebacker Steve Longa (lower body) — will be limited.