Tennessee coach Derek Dooley talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days, Thursday, July 21, 2011, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley said today that linebacker Austin Johnson would not miss any practice time following his arrest for public intoxication and disorderly conduct last weekend.
“We were all disappointed when we read the news, and we’re disappointed any time a player makes a bad choice that puts a negative light on our program,” Dooley said at a news conference today in advance of the Volunteers’ training camp, which begins Tuesday.
“We’re handling that issue internally. There’s several things that we’re going to do with Austin, and I’m comfortable with where we are on that. But he’ll be out there the first day and he’s eligible to play. We hope that we don’t have anymore headlines like that again.”
Johnson is regarded as a leader by his teammates, and he’s made All-Southeastern Conference lists for his academics each of his three years. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder also was the Vols’ most experienced returning linebacker, a position of major concern for UT.
“I think we were all shocked and disappointed when we saw,” Dooley said. “He’s never really given any indication that he would do something like that, and he probably had one of the best summers from a commitment standpoint [and] from a leadership standpoint.
“it’s a great reminder to all of us that...you’re only one bad decision away from hurting your reputation. I can tell you this: there’s nobody that hurts more about what happened more than Austin. Y’all who know Austin know that.”
Dooley also announced a handful of other roster updates today.
Freshmen Tino Thomas and Geraldo Orta were not on the 104-man roster of reporting players. Both defensive backs had shoulder surgeries this summer. One player might become the 105th player, but Dooley said UT had about a week to figure that out.
“They’re still here, they’re still in summer school and we’re still rehabbing them,” Dooley said, “and then we’ll decide where we go on that last spot.”
The Vols have 79 players on scholarship, and Thomas or Orta would be No. 80.
Senior defensive end Ben Martin, who’s coming off two Achilles tendon injuries in the last 12 months, will practice.
“We can’t forget that he hadn’t played a down since I’ve been the coach here,” Dooley said, “so we’re going to ease him into this stuff. We don’t want to go out there full-go the first day and something go bad.”
Martin missed Dooley’s first spring practice with a knee injury, and he suffered his first Achilles injury on the second day of last season’s camp.
Freshman offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson had shoulder surgery in the spring, and he’s day to day.
“He’s not 100 percent,” Dooley said. “He’s doing great. He can still bench press more than 98 percent of the team, but we’ve got to ease him in. He’ll be out of contact early on.”
Defensive end Jacques Smith, a sophomore from Ooltewah, is a full go. Smith had surgery on both feet since April to fix a broken bone and a minor stress fracture.
“We’ve got to manage him a little bit,” Dooley said.
Linebacker Herman Lathers (fractured) is still a couple of months away, Dooley said.
Senior defensive back C.J. Fleming was not listed on the 104-man roster for camp, but Dooley said he remains on the team and will be back when classes start on Aug. 17.
Redshirt sophomore running back Toney Williams will transfer. WIlliams enrolled early after signing in 2009 and was a breakout during former coach Lane Kiffin’s lone spring practice. He tore his ACL shortly after, however, and could never get healthy enough to seriously challenge for playing time.
“We wish him the best,” Dooley said.
More coverage online, in Tuesday’s Times Free Press
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 ...