KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee football team's arrest record remained clean for nearly five months, but that changed this weekend with the beginning of fall camp only a week away.
The Knoxville Police Department arrested Austin Johnson early Sunday morning for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. The Volunteers' senior linebacker was the first player to run into trouble with the law since safety Brent Brewer was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in February.
The Knox County Detention Facility said the 22-year-old Johnson was released early Sunday afternoon after his bail was set.
“We're aware of an incident with Austin, and we are investigating it,” Jimmy Stanton, UT's associate athletic director for communications, told the Times Free Press.
UT's media guide listed Johnson as a starter at weakside linebacker. The position is one of the Vols' biggest concerns entering the start of fall camp on Aug. 1. Herman Lathers, UT's leading returning tackler, was sidelined indefinitely with a fractured ankle suffered in early June.
A 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from Hickory, N.C., Johnson has played in 31 games during his UT career, though last season was his first at linebacker after moving from fullback, the position he played during his freshman and sophomore years. As a backup to Nick Reveiz at middle linebacker, Johnson made 44 tackles last season.
He earned Academic All-Southeastern Conference selections each of the past two seasons and made the league's Academic Honor Roll as a freshman. He was one of just a dozen seniors on the Vols' roster.
“Austin is OK,” Vols linebacker Shane Reveiz wrote on his Twitter account Sunday evening. “He made a mistake but he was not causing trouble. He is a great kid and will learn from his mistake.”
UT coach Derek Dooley's continued efforts to clean up the program's run of recent off-field troubles and change the culture appeared to have paid off, as the Vols were nearly through the entire summer without any incidents.
Brewer was suspended indefinitely following his arrest, although he was reinstated prior to the start of spring practice after a five-week absence. Dooley's policy for domestic charges is an indefinite suspension pending the conclusion of an investigation.
Johnson's punishment likely won't come until the completion of UT's investigation. His court date is scheduled for Aug. 4, the Vols' third day of preseason practice. UT opens up the season Sept. 3 against Montana in Knoxville.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...