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Texas native Darius James feeling at home on Auburn’s offensive line

Josh Vitale | AU Writer Follow on Twitter Like on Facebook

The biggest adjustment Darius James had to make coming from the University of Texas to Auburn University wasn’t learning a new coaching staff, team or scheme.

It was getting used to living in a city nearly 850 miles away from he started his collegiate career in his home state of Texas.

“Coming from where the motto of the city is ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ to everybody’s normal,” James said. “It’s real different. “

The move has paid off: After a Week 4 injury to Xavier Dampeer necessitated moving Austin Golson back to center, James moved into Auburn’s starting offensive line as the left tackle. He started the final nine games there last season and has taken the bulk of the first-team reps there again this spring.

For the first time in his five-year college career, James has a solidified role.

“Knowing the different things I’ve had to go through,” James said, “finally getting in the spot and getting repetition and honing in on that spot, it’s great.”

James initially thought he would get that opportunity with the Longhorns, who play less than 70 miles of where he grew up in Killeen, Texas. When he signed with Texas and then-coach Mack Brown in 2013, the 6-foot-4, 327-pound offensive lineman did so rated as the No. 1 center by some recruiting services and the No. 1 guard by others.

But James never got to play for Brown. After he took a redshirt season as a freshman, Brown resigned after 16 years with the Longhorns.

James appeared in six games (starting two) at right tackle under first-year coach Charlie Strong before tearing his ACL midway through the 2014 season. It was after that year that he decided he would transfer.

“I felt like it was the best move for me,” James said. “(Auburn) had two tackles (Shon Coleman and Avery Young) leaving. I could get behind them, they could mentor me. On either side of the ball they had senior guards here. They had a lot of people moving so I had some opportunity to play. I love the home feel of Auburn, the family feel of Auburn and it just felt like the right move.”

Auburn has finally given the opportunity James started searching for five years ago in Austin, Texas. The senior will get a push from Prince Tega Wanogho, but with less than six months to go before the Tigers open the 2017 season, the starting left tackle job is James’ to lose.

And he’s doing everything he can to make sure he doesn’t.

“He’s had a very good offseason. He’s got his body really looking good,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.

“I made a lot of progress,” James said. “My offseason last year, I was barely making it through workouts, really struggling. But I took it upon myself to do a little extra running, do some more core and really hone in and try to be a top player here, and not just somebody in the middle of the pack.”

It hasn’t been the easiest road for James. At Texas, he dealt with the head coach he signed with stepping down after his freshman season. In three years at Auburn, he’s worked with two offensive line coaches and two offensive coordinators. In the middle of all that, he had to rehab a torn ACL.

But this spring, James seems to have finally found a home.

He’s even found a little taste of Texas in Auburn: Quarterback Jarrett Stidham and running back Kam Martin, two players James could end up blocking for extensively this season, hail from Stephenville and Port Arthur, Texas, respectively.

“Me, Jarrett and Kam, we talk all the time. We love our state. We love where we’re from. It’s the great state of Texas. Everything’s bigger in Texas. But we’re all happy with our move and it was the best thing for all of us,” James said.

“I always kept the faith. I do this for my family and there’s no ‘No’ for me. I’m going to keep doing this.”

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I like that he has worked hard on his body. He looked great at times last year and pedestrian at other times. I am hoping the fact that he has worked so hard in offseason is an indicator that he will play more consistently great this year.

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