Slipped in with little fanfare among an group of impressive 2014 recruits for the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders was an athlete by the name of Richie James. The 5-9, 171 player was listed as an athlete with many coaching staffs unsure of his role at the college level.
James, a product of Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida, did not get the benefit of playing his best position in his senior season. Instead of turning heads as one of the better wide receivers in the state of Florida, James was a team player and led the program from the quarterback position. He threw for over 400 yards and rushed for another 1,000 during the 2013 season after catching over 700 yards as a receiver in 2012.
Because he did not put up monster numbers on offense and was shorter than many of the top recruits in the state, James was overlooked by most FBS programs. According to the Rivals recruiting website, only MTSU, Ball State, Georgia Southern, and Kent State offered him scholarships. In the end, the Blue Raiders pulled in a last minute commitment from James with Georgia Southern fighting hard for his services until the end.
Making his way to Murfreesboro from Sarasota, the decision was made to redshirt the talented receiver. Much of that was due to the fact that the receiver position was deep and James could benefit from a year of practicing while not burning his freshman season.
The decision from the MTSU coaching staff looked excellent as James had an impressive spring practice. His play in the spring forced the Blue Raiders to suddenly consider starting the redshirt freshman alongside senior receiver Ed'Marques Batties after penciling him in as a reserve heading into the season.
Named as the starter at the H-Receiver for the season opener, James had an impressive debut with six catches for 78 yards versus FCS foe Jackson State.
It was not until a week two matchup versus Alabama that James proved just how good he has the ability to be. The freshman caught ten passes for 95 yards versus one of the best defenses in the nation. A 5-9 receiver that not one power five program seriously recruited torched the Crimson Tide for 95 yards receiving.
The one thing that is quickly evident with James is his ability to lift his play to another level versus the better teams on the schedule. James had 95 yards versus Alabama, 141 versus Illinois, 95 versus Vanderbilt, 141 versus Western Kentucky, 104 versus Florida International, 73 versus Louisiana Tech, and 74 versus Marshall. The only time he was held under 50 yards receiving was in the 73-14 win over Charlotte.
Playing Florida Atlantic on the road with a win desperately needed, James had his best performance of his college career, a nine-catch, 198-yard game that ended with James responsible for two touchdowns.
His connection with fellow redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill has been nothing short of phemonemal. Much of that is due to both redshirting in 2014 and spending that season earning a connection in the passing game. Once both were elevated to starting positions, the two have been nearly unstoppable.
With an MTSU freshman record 1,037 yards receiving, a record-setting 82 catches, and one of the top three receiving games in school history (198 versus FAU), James is on course to demolish every receiving record in MTSU history. He should have three more games in 2015 to get to 100 catches on the season. In averaging 8.2 catches per game, he should easily attain that goal.
The 82 catches for 1,037 yards rank him 11th nationally in receiving yards and third nationally in catches. James is the only freshman in the nation with over 900 yard receiving on the season.
Pay attention now to #87 of the Blue Raiders as he is only just started on what could be the most decorated receiving career in MTSU history.