KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- For the second year in a row, Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson is on the preseason watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the top defensive player in the nation.
Last season, Johnson and teammate Daniel McCullers were on the preseason watch list. They were the first Vols on the preseason watch list since Prentiss Waggner was named to the list in 2011. The Bednarik Award, which was first presented in 1995, has seen two Vols earn semifinalist honors. Kevin Burnett was UT’s first Bednarik Award semifinalist in 2004, while Eric Berry advanced in 2008.
As a senior, Johnson has already been named to the preseason watch lists for the Lott IMPACT Award and CFPA Linebacker of the Year Award. He is a consensus preseason All-American, earning recognition as a first and second teamer from various outlets.
Johnson returned to Tennessee for his senior season after another stellar campaign as a junior. A 2013 AP and Coaches All-SEC first-team selection, Johnson became the first Vol to record 100 tackles in back to back seasons since Earnest Fields did so in 1990-91 finishing his 2013 campaign with 106. Johnson also notched 8.5 tackles for a loss of 17 yards, tying a career high, while also recovering a fumble and breaking up three passes. Johnson notched five double-digit tackling efforts in 2013, bringing his career total to 18.
He currently sits in third place on the UT career assisted tackles list with 164. The Gainesville, Ga., native enters his final season on Rocky Top with 324 career tackles in 36 career games.