Dec. 16, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson has been selected as a first team Freshman All-American by three media outlets (Phil Steele, The Sporting News and FoxSports), while offensive guard Marcus Jackson joins him on Phil Steele's first team. Additionally, linebacker Curt Maggitt and defensive back Brian Randolph were named to the Phil Steele Freshman All-American third team.
Last week, Johnson and Randolph were recognized as first and second team Freshman All-Americans, respectively, by Yahoo! Sports. The Vols' eight overall Freshman All-American honors to this point give UT its most all-time, topping the previous best of seven in 2004, while all four Vols were named to the Freshman All-SEC team.
Also, Johnson's four total first team accolades tie Eric Berry for the most by a freshman Vol.
Johnson posted one of the best rookie seasons in Tennessee history. UT's starting weakside linebacker racked up 80 tackles, the second-most by a UT true freshman all-time, second only to Berry's 86 in 2007. The Gainesville, Ga., native led all SEC freshman in tackles and finished second to Austin Johnson (81) on the team.
He became the only true freshman in Tennessee history to have three double-figure tackle games in his debut season as he piled up 10-plus tackles in three consecutive contests. That trio of games came against No. 1 LSU (11 tackles), No. 2 Alabama (career-high 13 tackles) and No. 14 South Carolina (12 tackles), compiling 36 total tackles in that span.
Johnson was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance against Alabama. He had 13 tackles, the second-most by a true freshman Vol in history in a single-game. In 2011, Johnson also had 4.5 TFLs, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble playing in all 12 games with 10 starts.
Jackson played in all 12 games, starting the last five of the season at left guard. The Vero Beach, Fla., native was a part of the Vols' special teams kick-block offensive line all season long. He made his first start for Tennessee against then-No. 14 South Carolina, Oct. 29, after playing in the Vols' first seven games as a reserve.
Maggitt complemented Johnson as the Vols' primary starting strongside linebacker, racking up 56 tackles in 2011. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native finished tied for third on the team in tackles, marking the fourth-most all-time by a Vols' true freshman.
Maggitt was second to Johnson in tackles among all SEC freshmen. He had 5.5 TFLs (for 19 yards) to rank fourth on the team in that category, along with two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
He notched a season-best seven tackles on four occasions: at Kentucky (Nov. 26), vs. Vanderbilt (Nov. 19), No. 1 LSU (Oct. 15) and Buffalo (Oct. 1). He also had six tackles and forced fumble against No. 8 Arkansas (Nov. 12). Maggitt started eight games, playing in 11 overall.
With seven tackles against Vanderbilt, including a career-high 2.5 for loss, Maggitt also earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors, marking the first time Tennessee had multiple rookies win the award in a single season.
With Randolph's 55 tackles, the Vols had three of their top five tacklers as true freshman -- the only team in the nation to make such a claim. The safety played in all 12 games, starting eight and finished the year right behind Maggitt, with the fifth-most tackles by a true freshman in Tennessee history.
A native of Kennesaw, Ga., Randolph notched a career-high 12 tackles and a TFL in the season-finale at Kentucky (Nov. 26). Randolph recorded an impressive stretch with 23 tackles against three Top 15 teams in October. Randolph posted nine tackles vs. No. 1 LSU (Oct. 15), eight stops at No. 2 Alabama (Oct. 22) and six tackles along with a forced fumble vs. No. 14 South Carolina (Oct. 29).
Tennessee has now had 44 all-time Freshman All-Americans dating to 1977. Last season, offensive lineman James Stone was recognized by three outlets as a Freshman All-American.