Vols quarterback Tyler Bray is one of five SEC signal callers named to the Manning Award Watch List. The overall Watch List includes 25 of the top quarterbacks in the nation heading into the 2012 season. The winner will be announced after the bowls in January and will be honored at a ceremony in New Orleans.
Bray, who is on the Maxwell Award Watch List enters his junior year in 2012.
A native of Kingsburg, Calif., Bray has played in 16 games for the Vols in his career, including 12 starts, and already ranks among the school's career passing leaders in touchdowns (7th, 35), completions (10th, 272), and yards (3,832). He has completed 272 of 471 passing attempts for his career (57.7%), and in 2011, he completed 147-of-247 passes for 1,983 yards, 17 touchdowns, and six interceptions, averaging 283.3 passing yards per game. Bray is 8-4 in his career as a starter and owns the UT records for consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes (10) and most passing yards in the first four games of a season (1,328).
Vols sophomore linebacker A.J. Johnson was named to the 2012 Butkus Award Preseason Watch List. Johnson was a consensus Freshman All-American after the 2011 season. The Butkus Award list features 51 candidates, honoring its namesake No. 51 Dick Butkus.
The Gainesville, Ga., native was named a First-Team Freshman All-American by Football Writers of America, The Sporting News, Fox Sports, Phil Steele, Yahoo! Sports in 2011. The five Freshman All-American honors set a Tennessee record, breaking mark of four by Eric Berry in 2009. Johnson was also a 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team selection.
Johnson played in all 12 games, starting 10 and led all SEC freshmen in tackles with 80, which was the second-most by a Vols' freshman all-time. Only current Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Eric Berry had more with 86 in 2007. Johnson was one of four true freshmen to rank among top two on his team in tackles among all D-I FBS schools. He shared the Vols' lead in tackles on four occasions and became the only UT true freshman in UT history to have three double-figure tackle games in a season (Berry had two in 2007) with 10-plus in three games in a row (10/15-29).
Johnson had 36 tackles in a three game span (12.0 per game) against #1 LSU, #2 Alabama, and #14 South Carolina. He piled up 12 tackles and recovered a fumble vs. #14 South Carolina (10/29). Johnson racked up career-high 13 tackles at #2 Alabama (10/22), second-most tackles by a true freshman in a game in UT history (record Eric Berry, vs. Kentucky in 2007) to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Johnson also had 11 tackles against #1 LSU (10/15), first double-figure tackle total by a freshman since Eric Berry in 2007.
The Vols have had five previous semifinalists for the Butkus Award: Keith DeLong (Finalist in 1988), Al Wilson (Semifinalist in 1998), Raynoch Thompson (Finalist in 1999), Eric Westmoreland (Semifinalist in 2000) and Kevin Burnett (Semifinalist in 2004).