Now healthy, Derwin James makes an impact upon his return

Ryan S. Clark, Lead Beat Writer

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Gene Williams/Warchant

Here's Cam Akers. The nice, new, shiny addition to Florida State's offense. And there's Derwin James not really caring.

FSU's annual Garnet and Gold Game had its slow moments. But it also had some memorable ones, too, with the Akers-James collision. Akers caught a 17-yard pass and was met in the secondary by James, who lowered his shoulder and welcomed the five-star early enrollee to college football.

Akers and the Gold team would win, 17-7, but there may not have been a bigger winner than James. The last time he played at Doak Campbell Stadium, he would sustain a season-ending torn meniscus in his left knee in the second game of the season against Charleston Southern.

Following months of rehab and a few weeks of spring camp, it appears FSU's dynamic safety could return to the form that made him an All-American in his freshman year when he finished with 91 tackles.

"He's better than he ever was," redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois said of James. "He's going to always be that guy. He's the quarterback of the defense, and I'm the quarterback of the offense, and we're always going to be competing against each other."

James was arguably the star of a spring game dominated by defense.

His seven tackles were the most of any player on either team. Only sophomore defensive end Brian Burns, who had three sacks, had more than James' two.

Burns and James each had three tackles for loss, yet James' inescapable qualities were more amplified. James, while still playing safety, also had a few snaps at linebacker where he continued to menace his teammates.

"Derwin, man, he's a special player. He's probably one of the best players I've ever played with," junior running back Jacques Patrick said of James. "All through spring, I feel like, he made me a better player. Everywhere on the field, you have to find him.

"You break a run, you have to find him because you know he's going to be there."

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