Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson will return for his senior year

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson (45) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first half against Vanderbilt Saturday, Nov 23, 2013 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Tenn.  (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson (45) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first half against Vanderbilt Saturday, Nov 23, 2013 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Tenn. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson will return to play his senior year for the Vols rather than pursue an early entry to the NFL.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones announced the news Tuesday on his Twitter account.

"Very excited to announce that (Johnson) will be a member of Team 118," Jones tweeted.

Johnson has started 34 games in his three-year career. The native of Gainesviille, Ga., led the SEC in tackles in 2012 and had a team-high 106 tackles in 2013.

Johnson's return will solidify the middle of Tennessee's defense, which is losing virtually all of its defensive line rotation to graduation.

Curt Maggitt, who missed all of 2013 as he recovered from an ACL injury, will likely start alongside Johnson.

There are several options for the third linebacker, including rising sophomore Jalen Reeves-Maybin and incoming freshman Dillon Bates.

Tennessee announced earlier Tuesday that reserve linebacker Christian Harris planned to transfer.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments » 14

Slats writes:

Good Decision! Very good leader to guide our young defense!

volnsc51 writes:

Excellent news!

JAC0703 writes:

He needs another year. He has to learn to take on blocks and quit going around or under them, left many open running lanes due to this.

Rel2400 writes:

in response to JAC0703:

He needs another year. He has to learn to take on blocks and quit going around or under them, left many open running lanes due to this.

Agree. The one area that could improve everything for him is overall speed/quickness. Hope he doesn't try to bulk up more but instead works on agility and speed. He'll have to be able to cover better and move sideline-to-sideline much quicker to have an impact at the next level.

Very glad to hear he is sticking around. Like another commenter mentioned before...it's just like we added a 5 star to this recruiting class.

Go vols! VFL!

CASEXX writes:

He should provide the kind of leadership next years young team will need badly. Being a leader will boost his NFL potential as well. Hope you have a great year AJ.

slb1zellwood#1421797 writes:

Good career decision by the young man. He really needs another year of physical and mental development if he hopes to effectively play at the next level. Thanks and good luck in 2014.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Not exactly the same as Peyton deciding to come back for his senior year but considering the status of our current team, it's darn close. That's great news to warm us up on this d--- cold day. It'll be a big plus having A.J. and Curt backing up an unexperienced group of defensive linemen.

bUTch__please writes:

Yes. This incoming class will grow from his leadership.
Plus, AJ and Curt have a flow when they are together on the field.
Great news.

johnlg00 writes:

Ditto all the above. Not sure how much AJ can change himself, if he even wants to, but his presence can only help the young ones, not least by perhaps saving somebody from having to step in before they are ready. I'm afraid he could be a star and the defense still not be very good. He might never be better than a fifth-round pick, but I think he can have a respectable NFL career if he wants it bad enough.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Huge, linebackers will be the strength of the defense.
Love to see him as a first team All-American next year in the mold of the great Volunteer linebackers.

Tao_of_Tennessee writes:

Great news! Thank you Mr. Johnson!

SmokeysPup writes:

Maggitt and Johnson together again (yes!). Too bad Sapp doesn't have another year. What a group that would be.

robert#1417579 writes:

Awesome. Go Big Orange!

STEELMAN4VOLS writes:

Great news to hear in the early off-season, good positive news!!

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