Austin Johnson pulls double duty at UT Pro Day

While Tauren Poole and Malik Jackson laughed and joked throughout the morning Friday, Austin Johnson could only shake his head.

Poole and Jackson came to Tennessee's Pro Day less than a month removed from their respective showings at the national combine in Indianapolis. The 20 or so scouts on hand Friday served as a fraction of the number that poked, prodded and analyzed them on one of the NFL's biggest stages.

Meanwhile, Johnson, who wasn't invited to the combine, was literally shaking, admittedly more nervous than he'd been before any football game throughout his UT career.

"Little jitters, little butterflies," said Johnson, the former UT middle linebacker who led the team in tackles last season. "Everyone is watching you here.

"It was a huge day for me and I've been training 12 weeks for it. I'm glad it's over and now I can get a little rest."

That 12 weeks of training helped Johnson during common drills such as the 40-yard dash, bench press and L drill, but it didn't prepare him for the slew of offensive drills he executed at the request of a few of the scouts. He simply had to rely on the skills he culled as a fullback in high school and during his first two years with the Vols.

"I didn't think I'd be doing some jump cuts," Johnson said. "But I can jump in there and I was happy to do it. Whatever they need."

Johnson's dual-purpose performance replicated what former UT linebacker Nick Reveiz went through at last year's Pro Day. Reveiz, who similarly led the Vols in tackles during his senior year, ultimately went undrafted, but signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. He was cut before the start of the season.

Johnson, whom CBSSports.com considers the 26th-best inside linebacker in the 2012 class, said he'd be just fine with following the path Reveiz took to land in an NFL camp.

"I think I opened some eyes today for people who were maybe not looking at me until today," Johnson said. "I felt good about the day, I felt strong and just hope for the best and pray for the best."

Johnson, Poole and Jackson were joined by a handful of former Vols at Pro Day, which carried a subdued atmosphere for a second consecutive year because of the shortage of guaranteed NFL talent. Quarterback Matt Simms, wide receiver Anthony Anderson, cornerback Art Evans, defensive end Ben Martin, linebacker Daryl Vereen, long-snapper Nick Guess and kicker Chip Rhome all ran through the various individual and position drills.

UT did not provide official times or measurements.

Because of his appearance at the national combine, Poole didn't have to participate in all or any of the individual drills. He did, however, participate fully in the position drills, as he took plenty of hand-offs and ran a number of routes before the scouts' watchful eyes.

"They wanted to see my change of direction, catching the ball, how I follow direction, my discipline," said Poole, who is largely projected as a mid-round selection in next month's NFL draft. "I think I did that well today. They did a good job coaching me up."

Weighing in at 290 pounds, Jackson arrived 20 pounds heavier than his playing weight from the 2011 season and six pounds heavier than the 284 he registered at the national combine. Sick of hearing about how he was too much of a "'tweener," Jackson said he wanted to prove that he was committed to playing on the defensive line at the next level.

"I just wanted to show teams that I can get up to 290 and play well with it and look good in it, too," Jackson said. "I really didn't decide to go up, it just kind of happened once I came back from the combine and tried to get ready for this."

Getting ready for Friday's Pro Day was just a little easier for Jackson than it was for Johnson. The feeling of relief once it was over, though, was unanimous.

"It's something I have to move forward from and I'll take what I can get," Johnson said. "Hopefully that's good enough for the teams."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitterhttpcom/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnewshttpcom/gribble

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Comments » 5

MikeInTN writes:

Twitter is a buzz that Peyton will be in Knoxville today to throw for the Titans!!!!

volinlm writes:

If Peyton really loves Indy like he says (which I believe), Nashville would put him close to there and possibly allow his family to stay in Indy. He's a practical guy. If everything else lines up team-wise, I think he becomes a Titan.

Sir_Spanky writes:

in response to volinlm:

If Peyton really loves Indy like he says (which I believe), Nashville would put him close to there and possibly allow his family to stay in Indy. He's a practical guy. If everything else lines up team-wise, I think he becomes a Titan.

Personally, I'd rather live in Nashville.

RoadTrip writes:

This would be a moot point for Austin if Fulmer and Kiffin had recognized his natural position was LB earlier in his career at UT. In two years he improved to the point of receiving consideration by the pros. He is an excellent football player with strong physical and mental skills for the game.

mtthw741 writes:

His neck will go in the first round!

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