Raw and possibly two years away from any meaningful playing time.

"Look for him to be a two to three year starter with NFL potential," read Ja'Wuan James' Rivals.com recruiting profile, last updated in 2009 while James played his senior season of high school football at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga.

The assessment turned out to be at least somewhat true.

James is all but a guaranteed selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

But instead of having a year, or even a single game to develop, James started at right tackle for the Vols just moments after running through the "T" for the first time as a freshman in 2010.

In a 50-0 season-opening victory over UT-Martin, James protected UT quarterback Matt Simms as he threw to targets like Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones.

Now in 2013, the Vols have been through two offensive line coaches, changed head coaches and started five players at quarterback since that game.

The one thing that has not changed in the midst of that turmoil?

UT's right tackle.

Against Vanderbilt Saturday night, James will start his 48th consecutive game for the Vols and his 29th and final contest at Neyland Stadium.

If UT qualifies for a bowl game and James remains healthy, he'll tie Jonathan Hefney (2004-07) for the most starts by a position player in Tennessee history.

"That's just a blessing for God to keep me healthy this long, just taking care of my body," James said. "The coaches gave me an opportunity when I was young, and you just come in here working and try to be consistent."

Tuesday night at the football complex, James and fellow seniors along the offensive line, James Stone and Zach Fulton, decided to revisit that initial opportunity they were granted by Derek Dooley and former offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

After watching film on the Commodores to prepare for Saturday's must-win game, they popped in some tape from years gone by.

"Let's turn on the film from sophomore year," one of the three suggested.

"And then it was, 'Let's turn on the film from our freshman year,'" James said. "And we went on down the line and watched UT-Martin, Memphis, Ole Miss, all those games."

Tennessee closed the season on a four-game winning streak, but UT's grizzled veteran linemen peeking back at their more youthful versions provided a comical scene on Tuesday.

"We were just sitting there laughing at how terrible we looked," James said.

"Back then, you think you're doing kind of good, but it looked terrible. We've come a long way. That's just a blessing to play this long and play for this university."

In regards to the present, both James and UT head coach Butch Jones describe their relationship as a bond.

Jones identified James early as a player he comes to in order to get a feel for the attitude of the team.

"Ja'Wuan is one of those individuals I gravitate towards," Jones said. "We probably text every night."

James said he wishes he could play for Jones longer than just a season, and although Jones has known James less than a year, his assessment of UT's senior right tackle encapsulates what his Tennessee career reflects.

"He has a great, great future ahead of him, and we really challenged him this year to improve in some areas, some deficiencies," Jones said, "and he's done a great job.

"We talk about consistency in performance, and I think that's defined in Ja'Wuan James."