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Johnson returning for senior season

Butch Jones’ recruiting efforts haven’t only worked with high school and junior college stars, it seems.

Tennessee All-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson (News Sentinel photo)

Jones tweeted Tuesday that All-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson will return to Tennessee for his senior season.

“Very excited to announce that ALL-SEC LB @aj_thebeast_45 (AJ Johnson) will be a member of #Team118! #BrickByBrick,” Jones tweeted.

A 6-foot-2, 245-pound, Atlanta-area native, Johnson has collected 324 tackles for the Vols the past three seasons — all of which ended with him leading the team in stops.

Johnson did his due diligence the past several weeks, but most analysts seemed to suggest he’d be drafted in the fourth, fifth or six round of the upcoming NFL Draft, so he chose to return to school in hopes of bumping that grade after a second season with Jones and defensive coordinator John Jancek.

NFL Draft projections weren’t the only thing in Tennessee’s favor with Johnson, either. He said after the Vols’ season-ending win over Kentucky that he would like to play next season with close friend Curt Maggitt — a dynamic, play-making linebacker who sat out last season while recovering from a torn ACL.

The return of Johnson of Maggitt should give Tennessee a nice handful of defenders — a list that also includes junior-to-be safety Bryan Randolph, sophomore-to-be cornerback Cameron Sutton and sophomore-to-be defensive end Corey Vereen — to serve as a proven nucleus on that side of the ball.

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