Jamel James joins the 2013 recruiting class

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Notre Dame fans received a pleasant surprise yesterday with the news running back Jamel James committed to the Irish. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back from Katy, Texas picked the Irish over offers from LSU, USC, Florida State, West Virginia, and Arkansas, where he was once a verbal commit.

James, who has yet to see the Notre Dame campus, is the Irish’s 18th commitment to the 2013 recruiting class and is a much needed running back commitment.

Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com got the quote of record from James, who took a mature approach to his recruitment after backing away from Arkansas when head coach Bobby Petrino was fired.

“It was good being committed to Arkansas and everything was set and I felt good about it,” James told Sampson. “Once things happened with coach Petrino, I realized I was only excited about it because of who was the head coach. I wasn’t committed to the school or the academics.

“When I started looking at schools again that’s when I first started thinking about Notre Dame. I liked the coaches a lot, but I wanted it to be about the school first.”

Rarely does a recruiting commitment come out of the blue like this, but James’ commitment is similar to another Texas product now on the Irish roster: cornerback Jalen Brown. Brown pledged his commitment to the Irish almost a year ago to the day, also choosing Notre Dame without ever stepping foot in South Bend.

A quick look at James’ highlights and you see a big, bruising runner that also possesses some breakaway speed. Donning the jersey number six, it’s hard not to think of Jerome Bettis, another big-bodied back that put together a pretty decent career in South Bend.

Projecting James into the running back depth chart gives you an idea of the type of talent Brian Kelly and his staff are collecting for the backfield. Here’s what the position grouping will look like in 2013:

Cierre Wood, 5th year
Cam Roberson, Sr.
George Atkinson, Jr.
Amir Carlisle, Jr.
Will Mahone, Soph.
KeiVarae Russell, Soph.
Jamel James, Fr.

Wood coming back for a final season is by no means a lock, but looking at the runners that Kelly has recruited, you start to see a thunder and lightning situation building. James, who looks a legit 220 pounds already, will certainly give the backfield some power, joining Will Mahone in that category, while players like Amir Carlisle and KeiVarae Russell fill the role of a runner that could just as easily play in the slot.

James plans to take an official visit for the Michigan game.