Austin Johnson where he belongs at linebacker

Tennessee's Austin Johnson (40) takes down UT Martin quarterback Derek Carr during the second half Saturday, Sep. 4, 2010 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Tennessee's Austin Johnson (40) takes down UT Martin quarterback Derek Carr during the second half Saturday, Sep. 4, 2010 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

The last time Austin Johnson played linebacker in a real game was his senior year at Hickory (N.C.) High School.

If the Tennessee junior had any rust, he didn't show it Saturday night.

"It felt good to be back out there at linebacker again," Johnson said after he had five tackles, an interception and a safety in the Vols' 50-0 season-opening win over UT Martin at Neyland Stadium.

"Before the game I was really going over my playbook just trying to get all the stuff down I needed to get down. But once I got out there, it all just kind of came to me and I was just able to play fast."

"Austin really did a good job," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He was active."

After playing two seasons at fullback, Johnson was moved to linebacker for spring practice. He's worked his way into a role as Nick Reveiz's backup at middle linebacker.

"It's a culmination of all his hard work and what he's done," Reveiz said.

"Austin really has been outworking everyone, and just getting in there trying to learn, a guy who was asked to flip-flop positions after he had such a successful year at fullback. I'm happy for him."

Johnson tackled UTM tailback Jason McNair for a 5-yard loss in the second quarter, narrowly missing a safety and giving himself a boost.

"It made me feel good," said the 6-foot-2, 231-pounder. "It made me feel like this is where I belong."

He redeemed himself in the third quarter, tackling D.J. McNeil in the end zone.

"I thought the first one was a safety so I was upset I didn't get it," Johnson said. "I was like, 'If I have another chance, I'm definitely going to get it this time.' "

Johnson, best remembered for a long touchdown catch-and-run against South Carolina last season, intercepted UTM quarterback Derek Carr earlier in the third, setting up Matt Simms' 42-yard bomb to Denarius Moore.

"I just read the quarterback's eyes," Johnson said.

"Scoring a touchdown is a pretty big deal, so that felt really good. But being on defense and creating a turnover, you can't do much better than that."

"I definitely wasn't surprised at all," said linebacker LaMarcus Thompson.

"Austin, he's a great player. He was a good find, to bring him over from offense. He's definitely been showing up in practice."

Tailback Love: David Oku had joked a couple of times during fall camp that fellow tailback Tauren Poole was going to take all the touchdowns.

But it was Oku scoring the season's first touchdown on a 44-yarder on a draw play midway through the first.

"I didn't give (Poole) any grief at all," Oku said. "I told him it was for him having to go through what he's been through."

After Poole was seldom used by former coach Lane Kiffin last season, he finally found the end zone for the first time in his career from 24 yards out.

"You could tell, he was like a kid in a candy store," Oku said.

"It just shows how hard I worked," Poole said. "I'm not a big guy on talking about myself, it was a great block by the O-line and on the perimeter.

"I kind of just sat back and realized that it all came the way it should have, and it was all about being patient."

Youth Galore: Twelve true freshmen saw their first action.

Status Update: Senior receiver Gerald Jones went to the locker room in the third quarter with a hand injury.

Jones hurt himself following an awkward landing after making a 37-yard catch.

Starting right guard Jarrod Shaw also hobbled to the locker room late in the game after hurting his ankle.

"Gerald Jones I'm a little concerned about," Dooley said. "We can't afford any injuries, but it's part of football."

Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 14

HallowedHill writes:

Great job, Austin - you played with obvious instinct.

GO VOLS!

10cvolnga writes:

Great job Austin. Next on your menu: Duck a l'Orange!

1998natlchamps writes:

Austin Johnson...not bad for a 3 star player who grew up loving and wanting to play for the vols. Shoulda been playing the last 2 years.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Jones is a good receiver but I sure would like to see a super receiver on the field. Perhaps a super qb is needed to allow a super receiver to appear. Right now we have neither. I hope Simm's can reach super status in the Oregon game. I do think Wilcox will have the defense ready and it will be a very close game but I have bad vibes about Lincoln's kicking. I'll be ready for more beer and pizza next Saturday.

gatorhader writes:

Thompson reminds me of another...RayKnock!!

GBO!!

VOLliven2it writes:

Thought Austin had two safeties but that's the officials' deal. I loved the int. and his intensity. Keep it up guys and stay healthy for heaven's sake. Speed and size are coming to town next weekend.

maciste54 writes:

Did you guys listen to the post game interviews ? Tauren Poole was all "Yes sir" and "No sir" . Don't know if that's a Dooley requirement or jus Poole being himself but either way I love it !!!!

VolGrad writes:

It was a good first game against a FCS opponent. If not for an offensively dead 2nd quarter, it would have been a great first game. However, I was not expecting a shutout from a defense where we were going to play so many guys who needed reps. That was a very pleasant surprise.

Go Vols! Let's get ready for Oregon.

west_GA_Volsfan writes:

in response to 10cvolnga:

Great job Austin. Next on your menu: Duck a l'Orange!

Duck a l'Orange - I LIKE IT!

VOL1SG writes:

Not sure why everyone is baching on the Stocker. The passes by Simms were (as noted by most) either high or a bullet from 7 yards. Bray's first two completions were to Stocker. Once Simms settles down, the connection with Stocker will be a given. All in all a good game and looking forward to seeing the ducks get de-feathered.

GO VOLS!!!

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to west_GA_Volsfan:

Duck a l'Orange - I LIKE IT!

I would like to order a plate of that!!!LOL!!

KC_Vol writes:

"So-called senior Luke Stocker"? What the heck does that mean? He really is a senior...I promise you. lol.

oskie_score writes:

in response to VOODOOley:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm willing to bet Gerald argued his case at the time the decision was made.
This is Dr. Greg Mathien and CDD's call, NOT GJ's.

volfaninusaf writes:

in response to oskie_score:

I'm willing to bet Gerald argued his case at the time the decision was made.
This is Dr. Greg Mathien and CDD's call, NOT GJ's.

Speak for yourself. Jones sucked it up bad on Saturday. Also, don't you remember how well the "injured" Lincoln played last year. Offense sucked pretty bad this past game. Maybe with fresh faces making plays, Simms won't just look down and throw to only one side, one receiver the whole game.

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