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Recruiting Reset: Jude James brings some serious versatility to Missouri’s roster

The two-way Francis Howell standout could play either wide receiver or defensive back at Mizzou.

It’s been a wild ride for Jude James. The 2024 3-star athlete from St. Charles, Missouri was a significant piece of Francis Howell’s first-ever state championship football team last fall. Did I mention they went undefeated? James finished last season with 27 receptions for 584 yards and six touchdowns, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He added 119 total tackles, seven tackles for loss and four interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.

Not too shabby. But his story didn’t end at the end of last season.

At the time, he did not claim a single power five offer. That changed on June 19th when Missouri extended an offer to James after watching him at the 7-on-7 tournament in Columbia. That offer resulted in an official visit to Mizzou, and the rest, as they say, is history.

James will join his former Francis Howell teammate, Brett Norfleet, at Missouri. Norfleet was a 4-star tight end recruit in the 2023 class, and he committed to the Tigers early in last year’s recruiting cycle.

Where he fits: This is one of the first questions that will have to be ironed out over the next 18 months or so. James was a standout on both sides of the ball last season for Francis Howell. On offense, he’s a big and physical wide receiver with the ability to win 50/50 balls down the field. At safety, he brings that same physicality as someone who can fill gaps against the run, but also has quality ball skills in order to play in center field.

So, where is he most likely to end up? It’s hard to say. If there’s a concern for James, it’s his long speed. He’s more of a smooth athlete than he is a twitchy player. That’s not a shot at the kid, but different players win in different ways. It’s not everyday you see a 6-foot-4, 200 pound player with the ability to play safety and wide receiver.

At wide receiver, James has some shades of Bud Sasser. As a safety, he has some similarities to Braylon Webb. They’re not one-for-one, but that should give you an idea of what kind of player we’re talking about here.

When he’ll play: James’ case for early playing time is certainly helped by his size. He could fit into Missouri’s plans on offense from a size and strength perspective right away. His willingness as a blocker could also help get him on the field early. That ability to fit into the depth chart quickly could help make the decision easy for Missouri’s coaching staff.

It’s a different story on the defensive side. His best landing spot in Blake Baker’s defense is probably at the STAR position, but the Tigers already have Daylan Carnell and Phillip Roche at that spot. Early plying time in the defensive backfield — arguably Missouri’s deepest position — might be harder to come by.

What it all means: Missouri added a versatile piece to its 2024 class in James. He’s a smooth athlete with the physicality to play either wide receiver or safety at the next level. He was a big piece of a winning team at Francis Howell, and the hope is he can be more of the same for the Tigers. It’s always great to add an in-state player to the mix. Here’s to hoping James is just the start of what’s to come for Missouri’s late-summer recruiting push.