James Always Looking to Improve

Brandon James

It is no surprise anymore when a team chooses not to kick the ball to Brandon James. Ever since he started playing for the Florida Gators in 2006, he has been tormenting opponents with his dazzling kick and punt returns. He has not gotten off to the start he would have liked, but James is confident that by the end of the season his numbers will be just as impressive as always.

After returning the opening kickoff against Tennessee 50 yards, the Volunteers were unwilling to kick the ball his way unless they had to. They punted four times on Saturday and Brandon James was unable to attempt a return on any of them.

"Last week was real frustrating because I felt they were just trying to keep it away from me and I didn't really get a chance," James said. "For the year, I'm not really frustrated because I know if I just settle down and just stay patient, it will come."

Although he hasn't gotten off to the start he expected, he has still shown flashes of why he was on many All-American lists as a return specialist. Most of them have come on kickoffs such as his 85-yard return for a touchdown against Charleston Southern. It was the first one for the Gators since 1999.

His 39.3 return average on kickoffs doesn't completely make up for a lowly 2.6 average on punt returns.

One of the big reasons for the lack of production other than not being kicked to is the Gators often attempting to go for a punt block, which they have not been successful on yet this season.

Punt blocks make James' job much tougher.

"Sometimes I just look up and look down to see how close they are because when we try to block it, so no ones blocking," James said. "I still try to get some yards for us though."

Sometimes going for the punt block can benefit him though. If the opposing team overcompensate for the punt block, they fall into the trap of leaving James unguarded when he catches the punt.

"It helps me because they focus on the guys trying to block the punt, so they will drift back a little bit to make sure they get the punt off," he said. "Their coverage lanes are not as tight and they don't come down the field too fast, so I get a little room to catch the ball and just pick some holes and seams to hit."

This season, James isn't just the return specialist for the Gators, he also starts in the slot receiver spot. In the three games this year, he only has five catches for 72 yards and just one touchdown. He knows he must improve on his production if he is going to help solidify a unit that looked shaky against its first real test.

"I think I'm doing ok. As far as a letter grade, I'm not sure," James said. "Of course, I had one drop and there a lot of things I can work on like just finishing my routes. All in all, I feel like I'm doing good and getting better each game."

One thing is for sure, just like his kick returns, if a defense gives James a little running room, he will turn it into a big play.

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