Edge rusher named highest-rated Tennessee football player by Pro Football Focus

**Edge Rusher Named Top Tennessee Football Player by Pro Football Focus**

In recent years, Tennessee football has recruited some standout talent, but achieving elite performance levels has been more recent. Pro Football Focus (PFF) has identified the highest-rated players from each SEC team since its inception, naming edge rusher Derek Barnett as Tennessee’s top player.

Barnett concluded his college career with impressive stats: 131 total tackles, 52 tackles for loss, 33 sacks, and one interception. He broke Reggie White’s career sack record and was drafted 14th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since Barnett’s 2017 NFL Draft selection, only one Tennessee player has been drafted higher. Offensive lineman Darnell Wright was picked 10th overall by the Chicago Bears in 2023, and he remains the only other first-round pick from Tennessee since Barnett.


Despite this, Wright didn’t surpass Barnett’s rating among SEC players in the PFF era. Barnett holds the 14th spot overall among SEC rivals, ahead of Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw.

Alabama’s Quinnen Williams tops the SEC with a 96.0 PFF grade, just ahead of Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. Barnett is the highest-rated defensive end/edge rusher in the SEC’s history according to PFF. Other notable defensive players like Jeffrey Simmons, Jordan Elliott, and Myles Garrett are all defensive tackles or linemen.

James Pearce Jr., another edge rusher, could potentially surpass Barnett’s grade if he meets the high expectations set by projections and mock drafts. Pearce, entering his junior year, is anticipated to be one of the top rushers in college football and could leave Tennessee as one of the country’s fiercest edge rushers. The Volunteers begin their 2024 season against Chattanooga on August 31.




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