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Tennessee Defender Named To Lott Trophy Preseason Watch List

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

Tennessee outside linebacker James Pearce Jr. was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy preseason watch list earlier this week. The award is given annually to the college football defender who has the biggest impact on his team both on and off the field.

Pearce is one of 42 total players across the country on the list including 13 SEC players. Those other 12 SEC players include Alabama’s Deontae Lawson and Malachi Moore, Arkansas’ Landon Jackson, Georgia’s Malaki Starks’ and Jalon Walker, Kentucky’s Deone Walker, LSU’s Herold Perkins, Oklahoma’s Danny Stutsman, South Carolina’s Nick Emmanwori, Texas’ Andrew Mukuba and Jahdae Barron and Texas A&M’s Nic Scourton.

Tennessee’s rising junior pass rusher is coming off a monster breakout season in Knoxville. Pearce was the biggest positive in the Vols’ 2023 season recording 27 tackles, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. His ability to rush the passer in addition to his ability to drop into coverage makes him a highly effective college player right now.

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Combining those skills with his athleticism and frame to get bigger makes Pearce a top contender to be the first overall pick in next spring’s 2025 NFL Draft.

Pearce took over in a trio of games last season— wins over South Carolina, Texas A&M and Iowa. The Gamecocks and Aggies had little hope blocking Pearce while the star edge rusher forced a fumbled at Iowa’s own three-yard line and had a pick six in the Vols’ Citrus Bowl victory.

Tennessee and Pearce open up its 2024 schedule on Aug. 31 when they face Chattanooga at noon ET at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

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