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Is there another position Tennessee’s recruitment should focus on?

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Tennessee’s recruitment at quarterback has received a ton of attention.

And rightfully so with the Vols signing Nico Iamaleava and Jake Merklinger the last two years and recently landing a commitment from highly-touted 2025 quarterback George MacIntyre.

But don’t overlook Tennessee’s recruitment at the edge position on defense.

Charles Power, the Director of Scouting and Rankings for On3, was a guest on 99.1 The Sports Animal in Knoxville recently and pointed to Tennessee signing five-star Jordan Ross in the 2024 class.

Power on the talent and potential of Ross:

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“We saw a bunch of these top pass rushers over the past several weeks at these national All-Star Games and Jordan Ross was certainly a stock-up type. He was fantastic at Under Armour. I think probably several five-stars there. He looked as good as anybody in that group. And he had an outstanding showing at the Poly Bowl (in January). I think he was, from watching that game, the best player in the field. Just outstanding play speed, backside pursuit, really high effort level as well.

Sometimes you see guys in these all-star games going half speed. They’re out there in Hawaii. I mean, for some of those guys, it’s probably a glorified vacation. And he was just tracking down ball carriers, had several hits on the quarterbacks. I think he put Dylan Raiola on the ground three or four times, had a sack and several plays by the line of scrimmage. So he’s looked fantastic. He’s a guy who I think has continued to play better and better, had a very good senior year, productive, has put on good size, and man, I’ll tell y’all what, he is killing it in basketball this year. Some of his dunks … his dunk reel is going to be very impressive, whenever that comes out, wherever he’s going to put out basketball highlights. … He’s a big-time athlete, twitchy guy, and I think bringing him in behind a guy like James Pearce and kind of what else they’ve done at that position, I think he is certainly capable of filling those shoes.”

Power said the recruitment of Ross is just the latest in Tennessee’s success of landing edge defenders.

He pointed to Pearce and another member of the Vols’ 2022 signing class:

“I think it’s the area that they’ve done a really good job at. I remember Joshua Josephs in James Pearce’s class, I think (Josephs) was one of the longest pass rushers. I think he has a seven-foot plus wingspan for a guy who’s 6’3″, 6’3 and change. So I think when you look at Tennessee, they definitely go after the high-end traits and the position, like the length, speed, twitch. And I don’t think it’s out of the question they’re going to have a bunch of pass rushers that are high draft picks in the next couple of years.”

On3 was the only recruiting site that rated Pearce as a five-star prospect in 2022.

And Power said they still might not have been high enough on Pearce after seeing him explode this past fall for Tennessee.

“I think we’re going to look back and think he was the best pass rusher in that cycle,” Power said.

And that should help Tennessee build the kind of defense it wants to help complement coach Josh Heupel’s offense.

“When you look at how the offense plays,” Power said, “under ideal circumstances they want to get up to early leads. And that just allows you to get these speed rushers on their edge to pin their ears back with your opponents playing in negative game scripts. The edge position is one Tennessee has done really well at.”

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