PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (RELEASE) -- Tennessee junior linebacker A.J. Johnson and senior defensive lineman Dan McCullers have been named to the Preseason Bednarik Award Watch List, awarded to the nation's top defensive player.
The duo are the first Vols on the preseason watch list since Prentiss Waggner was named to the list in 2011. The Bednarik Award, which was first presented in 1995, has seen two Vols earn semifinalist honors. Kevin Burnett was UT's first Bednarik Award semifinalist in 2004, while Eric Berry advanced in 2008.
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.
In his first season at Rocky Top, McCullers made an instant impact on the Tennessee defensive line, starting seven games and accumulating 39 tackles, including 5.5 for negative yardage.
The award is presented in honor of College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik.