Sometimes fate chooses a different path for individuals.
The reality of college football reinforces that fact for defensive ends C.J. James and Nordly Capi, both of whom transferred to the University of Akron from Colorado State via the state of Florida.
Yes, they’re friends. They’re close enough that James had little issue with recruiting Capi to play for the Zips.
“That is my boy. We got after it quite a bit out there,” James said of Capi. “We saw the opportunity where he could come up here and help us out. I told him it would be a good move and that we could do some great things here. He was willing to go with it based off the coaching that we got here.”
James arrived after reassessing his college career with the arrival of a new coach at Colorado State.
“That’s what happens so many times,” UA coach Terry Bowden said. “A coaching change. New staff. Evaluations of people. Let’s play the young guys that I brought in, as opposed to the older guys the other guys brought in. A lot of times, guys get lost in the shuffle and I think those two are two that fall into that category.”
But Capi’s arrival comes after an expulsion from Colorado State following a 2012 arrest that engulfed him and two teammates.
Capi, 6-foot-3 and 249 pounds, prefers not to talk about it, saying that he just wants to leave the past where it is and begin anew with the Zips. What’s more relevant is what’s in front of him, he said.
James, a senior who’s well known to Zips fans even though he’s not played a down of football for the team, couldn’t agree more. Though nowhere near as severe, he understands a bit of adversity, having sat out because of transfer rules last season.
“It was a reality check,” said James, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior. “You go from being a starter to being a scout team guy, which really made me focus on my craft, coming out here trying to get better and giving the guys across from me a great look. It really made me appreciate being a one.”
Neither will be a first-teamer exactly. Call them 1-A’s on each side of the defensive line. They have pushed presumed starters Albert Presley and Alfonso Horner, and it’s not difficult to see why — blazing speed and tremendous athleticism.
“I think they add a lot because they’ve both been in the wars and they’re big and fast,” said associate head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato. “They can play inside. They can play outside.”
Those attributes make the Zips’ defense, especially its front seven, flexible, Bowden said.
It doesn’t hurt that the roommates revel in being in a sack competition for the upcoming season. It has been a competition since Capi had four sacks and four forced fumbles in a game against New Mexico State in 2011.
“It’s definitely a competition,” James said. “It’s meet me at the quarterback. That’s how we look at it. Meet me there because that’s where I’m going to meet you.”
Their skills show up in practice, but given the Zips’ woeful won-loss record in recent seasons, it makes sense to wonder why they landed in Akron.
The main reason is coach Todd Stroud, who coached the Colorado State defensive line in 2009.
“A lot of my friends and family think that I could have gone someplace else. I really liked where I picked,” Capi said. “I’ve got my coach here. I have one of my best friends here. I felt the transition would be easiest for me to come here because I know the coach, I know the system and I have a friend in C.J.”
Friends questioned James’ choice as well, he said.
“I got a lot of that. But you know, it’s easy to get caught up on school name, whether or not they’re the best team in the country or not,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in that, but you have to look at the coaching staff, the type of technique you’re going to be coaching — just the quality of coaching you’re going to have.”
Sophomore running back Conor Hundley, who had been nursing a shoulder injury, was back at full speed in practice Tuesday. He looked pretty good running the ball in seven-on-sevens. … For all intents and purposes, actual camp is done. The Zips will spend the next eight days preparing for their season debut against Central Florida.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.