April 29, 2012
Former Vols stars Austin Johnson (Baltimore Ravens) and Tauren Poole (Carolina Panthers) have reportedly agreed to free agent contracts with NFL teams. The news is expected to become official on Monday. The pair join Denver Broncos fifth-round draft pick Malik Jackson as members of the 2011 Vols to enter the NFL ranks.
Johnson led the Vols in tackles in 2011 with 81, starting all 12 games at middle linebacker. He also led the team in interceptions with four. That total tied with Kentucky's Danny Trevathan for most interceptions by a linebacker in the NCAA. Johnson had six TFLs for 18 yards, including a sack. Johnson's four interceptions were the most by a Tennessee linebacker since Jackie Walker had five in 1970.
He finished with interceptions in four of the last six games, including three games in a row (11/5-19). He led the team in tackles five times including Vanderbilt (11/19), when led team in tackles with nine stops, made his first-career sack for 13 yards along with picking off a pass for the third game in a row. His second-career 10-plus tackle game vs. #14 South Carolina (10/29) giving him 100 career tackles. Johnson made a career-high 11 tackles to tie for team-lead vs. Georgia (10/8)
Johnson moved to linebacker as a junior in 2010 and played in all 13 games, making 44 tackles. He also tied for second on the team in special teams tackles with nine. Johnson had his first-career interception against UT-Martin (9/4/10) as a junior in the season opener. He earned UT's Andy Spiva Award as the team's defensive surprise player of 2010 spring practice period.
Johnson began his career with the Vols as a fullback and played in 18 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons helping to lead the way for current Cleveland Browns back Montario Hardesty.
He was named to the Academic All-SEC Team from 2008-10 and played in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game in January 2012, where he made six tackles.
Poole took part in the NFL Combine in February and played in the East-West Shrine Game, where he earned the Pat Tillman Award.
Poole ran for 1,883 yards in his career at Tennessee, playing in 49 games. He scored 16 touchdowns in his career including five as a senior in 2011. He gained 693 yards this past season while catching 21 balls for 164 yards. He gained 100 rushing yards on three occasions this past season with a season-best 107 vs. Vanderbilt (11/19) in addition to 101 vs. Buffalo (10/1) and 100 vs. Cincinnati.
Poole was a 2011 preseason member of the Doak Walker and Maxwell Watch Lists in addition to being a candidate for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.
As a junior, Poole named AP All-SEC Honorable Mention accolades starting all 13 games and gaining 1,034 yards on 204 carries. He scored 11 touchdowns and gained 100 yards on six occasions to tie for the lead in the SEC. His 1,000-yard season was the 16th in UT history and his total of 1,034 ranks 14th on the single-season list. Poole gained a career-high 162 rushing yards against Oregon (9/11/10).