Following what was a monumentally successful recruiting cycle on National Signing Day, the Tennessee Volunteers are having to deal with some bad news this weekend. Two Vols players, including senior linebacker A.J. Johnson, were arrested in Knoxville for alcohol-related charges and resisting arrest. For a player that is expected to be a leader for Tennessee in 2014, this is not the way the offseason was supposed to start.
Johnson distinguished himself in 2013 as one of the leaders of the Vols’ defense. He finished the season with 106 tackles, fifth most in the SEC, including 8.5 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and three passes defended. His efforts earned him first-team all-SEC honors in his junior season and was seen as one of the top defensive talents in the conference returning in 2014.
But on late Saturday, Johnson, along with reserve defensive lineman Danny O’Brien and former Tennessee football player Dontavis Sapp, were taken into custody by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Johnson was charged with purchasing alcohol for a person underage (O’Brien is only 20 years old) and resisting arrest. All three have been released by the authorities and head coach Butch Jones released a statement on Sunday saying that he is aware of the situation and the school is in the middle of gathering the facts.
There is plenty of reason for optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program when you look at the incredible job of recruiting Jones has done and the way he’s gotten his players to buy into his system. That makes this negative publicity for Johnson and the Vols all the more disappointing as it only serves to derail the positive momentum of the program heading into 2014.