CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — When Danville’s Julian Pearl arrived in Champaign, he was a soft-spoken, lanky defensive lineman. Three years, a position change, and sixty pounds later, Pearl is finding his footing on the other side of the line.
“It came with time, it’s more about developing your body,” Pearl said. “And with developing your body with that strength and speed and becoming a Big Ten athlete, comes with more confidence.”
This is Pearl’s third fall training camp working with the offensive line. But last year was his first chance to shine on the field, slotted into the starting lineup after a knee injury sidelined Alex Palczewski.
“Usually I’d just be in second string practice, going against the same guys,” Pearl said. “But then once you go against other Big Ten players and execute blocks correctly, it’s a great confidence boost.”
“Snaps are everything,” Illinois offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. “For Julian to get some snaps like he did is awesome. He’s out there getting better every day.”
A spot as a permanent starter is likely a year away with Palczewski and Vederian Lowe back as super-seniors, holding down the two tackle spots. But the new Illini staff has been impressed with what they’ve seen from Pearl so far, especially his versatility and ability to play on the interior or outside.
“He’s long enough and athletic enough to play tackle, but he’s big enough if he had to he could play down inside,” Petersen added.
“From me being like a defensive end, coming all the way to right tackle, I’ll learn, I’ll be receptive,” said Pearl. “Whatever coach asks me to do.”
And with three years of eligibility left, the 310-pound Pearl has certainly come a long way, with even more yet to show.