But James, a Glassboro native, made his mark from the first game and only a lower leg injury in the middle of the season prevented him from being more of a factor in the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
James missed part of Saturday’s Pinstripe Bowl under similar circumstances.
Part of the focus heading into the game against Notre Dame was how James would fare against a stingy Fighting Irish rush defense. James missed part of the game and finished with 10 carries for 48 yards and no touchdowns. Quarterback Chas Dodd ended up leading the Rutgers rushing attack with 55 yards.
“I was a little dinged up,” James said. “One half of the field was icy and you kind of had to slow down when you made your cuts. I tried to slow down when I made my cuts and I got a little dinged up.”
He finished the season on the verge of 1,000 yards, netting 914 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games, including the bowl game. James appears ready to reap the rewards of a full season on the gridiron, and looks forward to a full, healthy season.
“Now I have the experience of having been out on the field, playing and rehabbing,” James said. “Now I have to learn how to stay healthy the whole season.”
The Scarlet Knights’ appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl resulted in more practice time and reps for James and his teammates. With the win over South Florida in the regular season finale, Rutgers extended its season by three weeks. It helped James both physically and with his mental toughness.
“There was a lot going on,” James said of the bowl week festivities that included a visit to the 9/11 memorial and the ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. “We just had to stay focused on football. There were plenty of meetings and practices. We had a good time afterward, but we had to stay focused on football, too.”
He returns to an offense that will be without Coleman, who is entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
“Rutgers prepares us well for the next step,” Coleman said. “I feel like I’m going into the draft with an advantage. … I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”
It will be Ron Prince’s second season as the team’s offensive coordinator, but the team will have a new quarterbacks coach and a new offensive line coach.
At quarterback, Nova struggled this season and was eventually replaced by Chas Dodd. Dodd is graduating and ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer told nj.com Nova will be the key to Rutgers’ transition to the Big 10, and that he has too much talent for the program to give up on him. Nova will be a senior next year.