KNOXVILLE — Butch Jones is dealing with his first off-field incident since taking over as Tennessee’s head football coach 14 months ago.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, along with Dontavis Sapp, a former Volunteers linebacker, were arrested early Sunday morning following an incident at an off-campus apartment complex.
Johnson, a rising senior and All-SEC performer in 2013, and Sapp were charged with resisting arrest and alcoholic beverage purchase violations, while O’Brien was charged with criminal impersonation with a false identification, resisting arrest and underage consumption of alcohol, according to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
According to records obtained Sunday afternoon by the Times Free Press, KSCO officers responded to a call reporting a loud party at Quarry Trail Apartments, which are located just south of Tennessee’s campus, shortly after midnight. Johnson and Sapp were listed with the same address at Quarry Trail on the KCSO’s online jail logs.
Upon arriving at a the “very large party consisting of approximately 80-90 people” and noticing “numerous” open beer cans and liquor bottles, officers spoke with Sapp, who told them he’d quiet the party.
The report said as the officers were leaving, the music was turned back up, and officers warned the people at the party of the consequences of failing to obey their requests before responding to notifications of a fight.
O’Brien, a rising redshirt sophomore from Michigan who doesn’t turn 21 until October, presented a fake driver’s license from Alabama. The report said O’Brien “had a very strong odor of alcohol on his breath” and “became combative” when one officer attempted to arrest him. O’Brien was eventually taken into custody following a “brief struggle.”
According to KCSO records released late Sunday night, Johnson was arrested when he “grabbed” the officer “by the shoulder” while he arrested Sapp, who was “visibly intoxicated.” Once the officer got Johnson to the ground, “he continued to resist arrest by pulling away and rolling around.”
Johnson and Sapp were identified as the party’s hosts, and the report said they “provided alcohol and marijuana to numerous underage individuals, including at least one minor.”
Among 14 other people cited for underage consumption were the following football players: offensive tackle Dontavius Blair, defensive lineman Dimarya Mixon, cornerback Justin Coleman and defensive end Malik Brown. Linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Curt Maggitt and Jakob Johnson also were named as residents of the apartment hosting the party.
KCSO officers also found a pipe used to smoke marijuana in one of the apartment’s bedrooms “along with residue and clippings,” but who owned the drug paraphernalia “could not be determined,” according to the report.
These are the first public arrests for Tennessee’s program since tight end Brendan Downs was arrested for public intoxication and underage consumption less than 24 hours after the Vols beat Kentucky to end the 2012 season.
Jones, hired three weeks after that incident, did not immediately return phone calls from the Times Free Press on Sunday, but the coach did release a statement through Jimmy Stanton, Tennessee’s associate athletic director for communications.
“We are aware of the situation and are still in the preliminary stages of gathering all facts and information,” Jones said in the statement. “We have very high standards and expectations within our football program at the University of Tennessee, and appropriate action will be taken.”
Johnson elected to return for his senior season instead of jumping early into the NFL draft. He became the first Tennessee player since Earnest Fields in 1990 and 1991 to register consecutive 100-tackle seasons. He led the SEC in tackles as a sophomore in 2012.
O’Brien was in the rotation at defensive tackle this past season following a redshirt year. The 6-foot-2, 287-pounder was one of Tennessee’s most experienced returning players at a thin position. He is a former four-star prospect who finished with 12 tackles in 12 games this season.
Sapp finished his career this past season, when he recorded 66 tackles, eight stops for loss and recovered three fumbles. The Valdosta, Ga., native played primarily special teams and held a reserve linebacker role during his first three years at Tennessee. He started all 12 games in 2013, though, and was the Vols’ third-leading tackler.
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com.
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 ...