In a rankings update, Tennessee signee James Pearce was upgraded to a five-star prospect by On3. The 6-5, 220 pound edge rusher was previously the 57th ranked prospect in the nation, but has now moved all the way up to No. 11 overall.
Pearce was a surprise during the early signing period, committing and signing with the Volunteers. He was the third big get of the day, following running back Justin Williams and defensive tackle Tyre West.
Tennessee had a clear need on the edge, lacking impactful depth behind Tyler Baron and Byron Young. They appear to have found some depth with some big time upside in Pearce.
Here’s what On3 analyst Charles Power had to say about him.
Twitched-up EDGE prospect who has an argument as the most gifted pass rusher in the 2022 cycle. Pairs a long, lean build with top notch first-step quickness. Screams off the edge both as a standing rusher and from a three-point stance. Shows curvilinear movement with his ability to bend around the edge. Has elite closing speed and is a high-level finisher in the backfield. Physical and embraces contact. Has a strong anchor relative to his current size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and converts speed to power as a pass rusher. Highly, highly disruptive in multiple ways. Disrupts passing lanes on a regular basis in addition to forcing fumbles, coming down with interceptions and scoring several defensive touchdowns. Plays with an outstanding effort level on a play-to-play basis. Tracks down plays in backside pursuit. Runs like a wide receiver, which should not be a surprise as he began his career as an offensive skill player. Has put together a phenomenal final two seasons at North Carolina’s top high school program, totaling over 30 sacks as a junior and senior. — Charles Power, On3
That’s really high praise.
Truthfully, Tennessee hasn’t had an impactful edge presence since Darrell Taylor. Before that it was Derek Barnett. It’s been a need for a while, and Tim Banks is hoping Pearce develops quickly into an impact player.
The Volunteers are going to need the pass rush to come on strong, as things are currently shaky in the secondary. Expect Tennessee to add a piece or two to help out there at some point this spring.
Pearce won’t arrive in Knoxville until this fall. He’ll obviously be one of the top names we’ll be following when camp arrives in August.