RB Starks Ready To Make Up For Missed Season

There’s no doubting running back James Starks’ production during his college career at the University of Buffalo. The only question with Starks is whether he can be the same player after missing his final collegiate season due to shoulder surgery. - More Packers.com Draft Page

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There's no doubting running back James Starks' production during his college career at the University of Buffalo.

The only question with Starks is whether he can be the same player after missing his final collegiate season due to shoulder surgery.

Starks, whom the Packers selected in the sixth round on Saturday with the 193rd overall pick, already had notched Buffalo's career records for rushing yards (3,140), rushing touchdowns (34) and points scored (222) when a shoulder injury prevented him from finishing his career with a flourish.

Starks said he tried to practice through the pain during spring drills, but in the spring game he fell awkwardly on it and made it even worse. When there wasn't significant healing by fall camp in August, Buffalo head coach Turner Gill told Starks he didn't have much choice.

"It was very painful," Starks said. "I tried to play through it, but Coach Turner said if I wasn't the same back, I should get it taken care of and weigh all my options after that."

So Starks had surgery to repair the torn labrum, and even though sitting out last season probably led to him dropping all the way to the sixth round, he vows to make the most of the opportunity he's been given and not look back.

"I'm going to go in and be the same James Starks that I was in college," he said, noting that Gill, a former director of player development for the Packers, helped him shape his mindset. "I'm going to dedicate myself to hard work. My whole thing while I was off was to get my shoulder as strong as possible, so I wouldn't have to worry a second thought about running into a (tackler).

"It doesn't really matter where you get drafted, as long as get an opportunity, someone putting their trust in you, and you go and make the best of it."

He should be able to, as long as he has no setbacks with his shoulder, which he declares is now 100 percent healthy. Starks, an accomplished athlete who originally came to Buffalo as a quarterback, switched to cornerback and then ultimately to running back, topped 1,000 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons (2007-08), the first time a Buffalo player had accomplished that feat. His 127 career catches out of the backfield (for 898 yards) prove he's got an all-around offensive game as well.

His best season was in 2008, when he set single-season school records with 1,333 yards and 16 touchdowns on 272 carries (4.9 avg.) despite missing three games with hip and toe injuries. He also caught 52 passes for 361 yards and a TD, giving him 102 points scored and 1,694 all-purpose yards, both school records.

"He can play on any down," Green Bay running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "This guy has size, he has speed, he can make people miss, and he has a great attitude. He's a physical kid."

At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, Starks has been criticized for running too upright at times. But Bennett, as big a stickler for fundamentals as any position coach, doesn't see that tendency as a major hindrance, or all that unusual for a back his size.

"When you study his tape, you see him show the knee bend to be able to get his pads up under defenders pads and finish runs going forward," Bennett said. "But with all backs, sometimes they are inconsistent in that area, and again, just like all fundamentals, we'll work on that area."

{sportsad300}Starks will immediately be thrust into the battle for the backup job behind starter Ryan Grant. At this point, the competition is Brandon Jackson and Kregg Lumpkin, with veterans DeShawn Wynn and Ahman Green currently unsigned.

With the pass-catching acumen, Starks already brings something to that competition, and he could be given a chance as a returner as well. But one of the key factors in becoming a reliable backup and third-down back in the NFL is blitz pickup, a forte of Jackson's.

Any new back in the NFL has to work on that, and certainly Jackson was no expert for his first couple of years in the league. Bennett sounded confident Starks could develop in similar fashion.

"He has the willingness and physical mindset," Bennett said. "He has the attitude to take on defenders, and that's the No. 1 thing. You have to be willing to do it and obviously you have to have an understanding of the blocking scheme. He gets that."

He also gets a chance to make up for his lost season now. He says he's ready.

"I'm a hard worker, and I'm going to go in and give my all," Starks said. "I'm very confident in my ability, and I'm going to prove to a lot of people that I'm healthy, that I can do a lot of things. I can't wait to start working and do all I can to help the Green Bay Packers."

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