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Tennessee EDGE Tagged as SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week

James Pearce
Tennessee EDGE James Pearce Jr. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

The Southeastern Conference named Tennessee EDGE rusher James Pearce Jr. as the conference Defensive Lineman of the Week on Monday afternoon.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore has burst onto the scene as one of the Vols’ top defensive players through the first five games of the season and capped off that stretch with a terrific performance against South Carolina on Saturday night in Knoxville.

Pearce helped propel Tennessee to victory by recording three tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, and one quarterback pressure against Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks’ offense.

The contest against South Carolina was Pearce’s second multi-sack game of the season after recording two against Virginia in the season opener. Pearce’s five total sacks through five games puts him at No. 2 for that category among SEC competition.

“I didn’t see his stats. I just, every time I looked up, I felt like he was affecting the way their quarterback was playing in the pocket and, just relentless, playing with length, fundamentally continuing to get better, has grown as a person outside of the game, which has allowed him to quickly accelerate inside of the game,” head coach Josh Heupel said about Pearce’s performance after the game on Saturday.

Pearce was also responsible for creating one of the biggest plays against South Carolina when his quarterback pressure forced Rattler into an errant pass that sailed into the hands of Tennessee cornerback Kamal Hadden for the pick-six.

“Playing really well right now,” Heupel said. “His best football is still a long ways out in front of him too, which is a real compliment to him because he’s playing really well right now.”

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The Charlotte, N.C. native has a total of 15 tackles (10 solo, five assisted) and nine tackles for loss through the first five games of the season.

To further illustrate how big of a jump Pearce made from year one to year two in the Tennessee system and in replacement of NFL draft pick Byron Young, Pearce has doubled nearly all of his 2022 season stats in less than half the games.

Tennessee DL James Pearce Jr. 2022 2023 (So Far)
Games Played 13 5
Total Tackles 5 15
Solo Tackles 3 7
Assisted Tackles 2 3
Tackles for Loss 2 7
TFL Yards 16 41
Sacks 2 5
Sack Yards 16 34

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