James Pearce Jr. was one of the best defensive prospects in Tennessee’s 2022 class so it was shocking to see him not play a ton.
The edge rusher from Charlotte, N.C., looked like a physical specimen at 6-5 and 220 pounds but he clearly needed to add muscle to be able to compete in the SEC. He’s going to do plenty of that this offseason as his potential is through the roof.
Pearce should be able to find his way onto the two-deep next season at the LEO spot with Byron Young moving on, but he’s going to get pushed by fellow sophomore Joshua Josephs for the backup jobs behind Roman Harrison. I think Pearce wins this job.
Josephs was a little more productive last season, but Pearce has the higher ceiling and we’ll see that in 2023.