2011 Intro: Kaylen Pearson

LENOIR, N.C. --- After two consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, Hibriten is hoping to take the next step with its football program this coming season. A lot of the responsibility of achieving that goal falls on the shoulders of Kaylen Pearson.

"The biggest thing with Kaylen is he's an athlete," Hibriten head coach Clay Lewis said. "He helps us out not only on offense, but defense and special teams."

This season will be Lewis' first as head coach. He replaces Chuck Cannon, who stepped down as head coach after ten seasons. Regardless, Lewis, who was an assistant coach at Hibriten for 21 years, doesn't expect much change within the football program.

"We may get into the shotgun a little bit more," Lewis said. "But we'll still be a triple-option team."

The playmaker of that triple-option offense is Pearson. The 5-foot-11, 177-pounder has been starting at A-back since his sophomore season. Last season he rushed for 800 yards with a 12-yard average.

"I go in motion, try to fake plays, but when it comes to the triple option, I'm getting the pitch or blocking," Pearson said. "[The A-backs] block for each other or the offense doesn't work."

When Hibriten gets away from the triple-option offense, Pearson versatility really comes out.

"We played him last year a lot at different positions [on offense]," Lewis said. "Like when we'd get into the I [formation], he would be the flanker. Or we'd get into the triple-I and he would be the middle ‘back.

"He's so smart; he can do a lot different things, because he knows the total offense."

Lewis plans to get the ball more to Pearson for this senior season. But he also plans to give Pearson more breaks on offense.

"We have a pretty good group of ‘backs; we can give [Pearson] a blow when he needs it," Lewis said. "Defensively, I don't see him coming off the field."

After playing some cornerback as a sophomore, Pearson started at free safety in Hibriten's 3-5 defense last season.

"It was different for him, because he never played safety," Lewis said. "It took him awhile to get adjusted at that position. But he really progressed as the year went along on defense.

"He makes all our checks in the secondary [and] gets everybody in the right position. We ask him a lot to come up on the run – fill the alleys. Mainly, we'll play a cover-three where he has the middle zone. And then we'll go some man-free, where he's free."

Pearson also returns punts and kickoffs for Hibriten.

In early February, Pearson verbally committed to Duke. His older brother, Damian Thornton, will be a senior linebacker for the Blue Devils this season.

"I like the campus and the program is getting a whole lot better," Pearson said. "That's where my brother goes so I have family there and know people down there. Really, I like the way they do things down there. Coach [David] Cutcliffe said they're going to have a faster team and they've been getting faster and they've been winning games."

Pearson made the commitment a couple days before the previous class had even been signed.

"I just wanted to have something in my back pocket," Pearson said. "I just wanted to secure a good scholarship and feel safe."

Thus far, Duke is the only school to offer Pearson a scholarship. However, he is receiving significant interest from Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wake Forest.

"[Most schools] have film on him and are in the process of evaluating him," Lewis said. "I think Duke got a head start because of Darius [Lipford] and [Pearson's] brother."

Pearson says the commitment is firm, but he plans to visit other schools.

"I don't know right now," Pearson said when asked if a new scholarship offer could change his commitment status. "We'll have to wait and see."

Since committing, Pearson has only visited Duke – he attended Saturday's Junior Day. But he plans to attend Clemson's upcoming Junior Day and numerous college camps this summer, including Duke's, UNC's, and Wake Forest's.

Last summer, Pearson camped at both Duke and UNC. He also attended games at Clemson, Duke, UNC, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Because of his versatility, Pearson is being recruited for a variety of positions.

"It all depends on who you talk to," Lewis said. "I think a lot of [schools] are actually looking at him as a defensive back. There are a few schools that have expressed interest in him playing offense."

Lewis feels Pearson's best fit is at running back in a spread offense or at slot receiver. However, he believes Pearson is a sleeper on the defensive side of the ball.

"He's kind of a diamond in the rough defensively, because he's still developing there" Lewis said. "He's followed along offensively, but we didn't play him on defense a whole lot until his junior year."

Kaylen Pearson Profile

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