– Two more Vols were added to watch lists Monday as juniors A.J. Johnson and Antonio Richardson were tabbed to the 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List while Johnson earned a spot on the Butkus Award watch list.
Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
The 29th annual Butkus Award® selection process honors the nation’s best linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional level. Each watch list contains 51 candidates, honoring the now-retired professional jersey number of Dick Butkus.
This is the second straight season Johnson has earned a spot on the Butkus Award watch list while Johnson and Richardson becomes the first Vols on the Lombardi watch list since Malik Jackson in 2011.
On the offensive line, Richardson helped pave the way for a Vol offense that averaged 477.6 yards per game and allowed just seven sacks, the second fewest in the NCAA in 2012. For his efforts, Richardson earned AP All-SEC Honors following the 2012 season.
Johnson, a 2012 All-SEC linebacker, finished the season fourth in the NCAA in tackles and tackles per game with 138 for 11.5 per game leading the SEC in tackles in his 12 starts.
A leader in the middle linebacker role, Johnson also had team-high 8.5 TFLs for 25 yards along with his first-career sack and eight quarterback hurries. He posted the most tackles by a Vol since Jerod Mayo made 140 in 2007 while his 75 assisted tackles are the third-most in a season at UT.
Johnson averaged 12.9 tackles over the last 10 games of the season with at least 11 tackles in each game.
The 44th Rotary Lombardi Award will be held on December 11, 2013 at the Wortham Center in Houston, Texas.
Semi-finalists for the Butkus Award will be named October 28, finalists November 26, and winners will be notified on or before December 10.
(E-mail Stan Crawley at email@example.com)