08/16/12 — FOOTBALL TAB -- Jarrod James: Red-shirt freshman says 2012 all about UNC seniors

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FOOTBALL TAB -- Jarrod James: Red-shirt freshman says 2012 all about UNC seniors

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 16, 2012 1:48 PM

Jarrod James knows he cannot play for a national championship, a bowl game appearance or even an Atlantic Coast Conference title this season.

He can play for something just as meaningful -- his teammates.

A former Shrine Bowl selection as a lineman at Charles B. Aycock, James is a redshirt freshman offensive linemen at North Carolina.

James refuses to be discouraged by the Tar Heels' postseason ineligibility stemming from NCAA sanctions related to academic violations that occurred during the tenure of former head coach Butch Davis.

North Carolina finished 7-6 in 2011 and concluded the season with a loss to Missouri in the Independence Bowl. James vividly remembers watching members of the Tar Heels' senior class walk off the field for the final time.

Despite knowing North Carolina's season ends on Nov. 24 against Maryland regardless of the Tar Heels' record, James is determined to send this year's seniors out with their heads held high.

"I can speak personally," James said. "I am playing for my teammates now. Our seniors can't go to a bowl game. I remember seeing some of the guys faces after we lost our bowl game to Missouri last year. For some of those guys that was the end of their career.

"We want to have the best regular season we have ever had and make sure we send those guys out with us being successful."

During his redshirt season James had the opportunity to hone his skills against former teammate and current New York Jets' defensive end Quinton Coples along with North Carolina's two leading tacklers -- Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick. James also had the privilege of working with former Tar Heel and Goldsboro High School alum David Thornton.

Watching from the sidelines on game days this past fall allowed James to gain a unique perspective and learn some valuable lessons along the way. Contributing in practice each day and preparing the Tar Heels' defense for Saturdays allowed James to maintain a sense of belonging within the program.

That preparation should pay dividends for James in new head coach Larry Fedora's up-tempo offense. Fedora brought his fact-paced scheme from Southern Miss where the Golden Eagles won the Conference USA championship game last season.

James has enjoyed the transition.

"The people who you play for now are not the same people who recruited you, but we have had several team meetings and coach Fedora always talks about buying into the program," James said. "He came here to win championships, and we all have to understand our purpose and the reason why we play."

North Carolina was picked to finish third in the ACC's Coastal Division by the conference's media members. The Tar Heels received just two first-place votes despite returning 13 starters.

Those pre-season predictions do not deter James in the least. He has a season of watching from the sidelines to remind him it is what happens on the field that truly matters.

"We have to do what we have to do," James said. "We can't worry about what everyone else is doing. We have to execute our program and if we do that consistently on a regular basis we should be a top team. It is not going to be given to us. We have to earn it."

North Carolina begins its season Sept. 1 at home against Elon.