ESPN.com's Todd McShay released his 2011 Freshmen Rankings, which includes Tennessee's linebacker A.J. Johnson at No. 17.
ESPN has this analysis on Johnson: Johnson is a tough between-the-tackles run stuffer who uses his hands to keep blockers from getting to his frame. He shows above-average discipline and rarely is caught out of position. While he's an average athlete and is exposed in space on occasion, he's a strong wrap-up tackler who doesn't let ball-carriers slip though his grasp once he's latched on. Johnson is fluid and strong enough to match up with most tight ends in man coverage, and he also has above-average awareness in zone coverage.
Fellow linebacker Curt Maggitt is listed as "Honorable Mention"
Within the SEC, Chris Low has the following rankings: The SEC's top freshmen in 2011. That list has Johnson at No. 3, Maggitt at No. 6 and Brian Randolph at No. 8.
Here are Low's breakdowns:
3. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee: He started in 10 of the Vols' 12 games and led all SEC freshmen with 80 tackles, which was second on Tennessee's team. He had his best games against the best teams with 11 tackles against LSU, 12 against South Carolina and 13 against Alabama.
6. Curt Maggitt, LB, Tennessee: One of the more promising big-play defenders in the league, Maggitt tied for third on Tennessee's team with 56 total tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. He started in eight games. 8. Brian Randolph, S, Tennessee: He started in eight games and led all Tennessee defensive backs with 55 total tackles. Randolph was a safety for most of the season but started at cornerback against Alabama.