A.J. Johnson

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Two former Tennessee football players acquitted in rape trial

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Two former members of the Tennessee football program were acquitted of aggravated rape charges from a November 2014 incident. Former Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams were each previously charged with raping a woman at a party and have now been cleared by a jury on Friday.

A jury took less than two hours to come to their decision.

“I am so grateful to the jury for their work and their service to our community, and I’m grateful for their seeing the truth, [that] Michael Williams is not guilty and has never been guilty of this crime,” Johnson’s lawyer, David Eldridge, said in an Associated Press report. “He’s looking forward to moving on with his life.”

The defense argument was based on the idea the prosecution was not providing sufficient evidence to back a woman’s claim she was raped by the two former Tennessee football players. It was the defense team’s stance the woman had consensual sex with both men and then later lied about her claim of being raped.

Neither player played for Tennessee following the indictment against them.

Report: Butch Jones accused of calling Vols player who helped alleged rape victim a traitor

AP Photo/Garry Jones, File
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A federal lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee (which just added two more plaintiffs to the case) claimed former wide receiver Drae Bowles was attacked days after assisting an alleged victim. That attack came from the players, but Bowles claims Vols head coach Butch Jones called him a traitor.

The Tennessean reports Bowles made this claim about Jones in a sworn affidavit. Bowles was punched in the mouth by Curt Maggitt inside the Tennessee locker room in what is said to be retribution for helping the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a pair of Tennessee football players, A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. Both Jones and Maggitt expressed frustration with Bowles for assisting the woman. Bowles claims to have found the woman crying in a parking lot after the alleged assault. Bowles claimed Maggitt approached him with “accusing questions” later.

“Bowles told Maggit what had happened. Maggit became violently upset, said that Bowles was trying to f**** up A.J. and suddenly punched Bowles in the mouth with great force, causing Bowles’ lip to bleed,” the filing said.

Bowles fought back before teammates broke up the fight, the filing said.

The next day, Bowles was confronted a second time. Bowles went to Smokey’s Sports Grill, the campus dining hall for athletes, and purposefully sat alone. Teammates Geraldo Orta and Marlin Lane confronted him, according to the new documents.

Maggitt reportedly admitted to assaulting Bowles to authorities and was never charged for the assault. Jones gave Bowles time away from the team and instructed Vols players to leave him alone. No player received discipline from Jones for their actions.

“Drae Bowles had acted with the utmost kindness and strength of character toward Jane Doe IV, her friends and Jane Doe V,” the plaintiffs claim in their updated lawsuit. “For his kindness and courage he was beaten up, called a traitor by his head football coach and ostracized from the team by Coach Jones and other players.

“Maggitt continued to be touted as a team leader and with Orta and Lane celebrated a bowl victory by posing for cameras flashing (alleged) rapist A.J. Johnson’s number 45 with their hands and fingers,” the lawsuit says.

Jones reportedly called Bowles back with an apology for his traitor statement.

Yesterday Jones — who has claimed Tennessee has a good football culture — and head coaches from across Tennessee’s athletic department took the stage for a press conference and show of unity on Tennessee’s campus. The message was how there is no culture problem at Tennessee. As more and more details from this federal lawsuit become public, the pristine image of the football program will be tough to polish.

UPDATE (10:22 p.m. ET) – Jones has released a statement denying the accusation he called Bowles a traitor.

Bednarik Award watch list names 76 players

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Watchlist season continued Monday with the release of the 2014 Chuck Bednarik Award watch list by the Maxwell Football Club. A total of 76 players were named to the watch list.

The Chuck Bednarik Award is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player as determined by the Maxwell Football Club. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was named the Bednarik Award winner each of the first two years the award was presented (1995 and 1996), and Penn State has had four Bednarik Award winners, the most of any school. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the 2013 Bednarik Award winner.

This year’s watch list includes three of last year’s semifinalists, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and USC defensive end Leonard Williams. Georgia has three linebackers on the watch list and Stanford continues to gain respect on defense with four players named to the watch list.

Here is the 2014 Bednarik Award watch list:

DE Henry Anderson, Stanford

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State

DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State

LB Kelby Brown, Duke

DT Malcom Brown, Texas

DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

CB Alex Carter, Stanford

S Sam Carter, TCU

S Jeremy Cash, Duke

DE Frank Clark, Michigan

S Landon Collins, Alabama

DT Christian Covington, Rice

S Su’a Cravens, USC

DT Carl Davis, Iowa

LB Trey DePriest, Alabama

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

CB Lorenzo Doss, Tulane

S Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State

DE Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

DE Mario Edwards, Florida State

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

LB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

DE Devonte Fields, TCU

DE Try Flowers, Arkansas

LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

DE Dante Fowler, Florida

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

DE Markus Golden, Missouri

DE Randy Gregory, Nebrska

LB Bryce Hager, Baylor

CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

DE Eli Harold, Virginia

S Anthony Harris, Virginia

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas

DT Chucky Hunter, TCU

DE Martin Ifedl, Memphis

LB Myles Jack, UCLA

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson

LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee

S Karl Joseph, West Virginia

LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA

LB Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington

CB Jordan Lucas, Penn State

DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech

LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville

LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor

DE Norkeithus Otis, North Carolina

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami

LB Terrance Plummer, UCF

S Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

LB Hayes Pullard, USC

DE Cedric Reed, Texas

S Jordan Richards, Stanford

DE A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

DT James Rouse, Marshall

CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame

LB Jake Ryan, Michigan

LB Frank Shannon, Oklahoma

DT Danny Shelton, Washington

S Derron Smith, Fresno State

LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma

DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB A.J. Tarpley, Stanford

S Robenseon Therezie, Auburn

LB Shaq Thompson, Washington

CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

DE Leonard Williams, USC

CB P.J. Williams, Florida State

LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia

Earlier today the Paul Hornung Award watch list was released. The Maxwell Award watch list was released alongside the Bednarik Award watch list as well.

Tennessee defensive lineman ordered to community service

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Tennessee defensive lineman Danny O’Brien has a deal with the state of Tennessee to have some charges stemming from an arrest last week dropped, but he’ll have to work for it. O’Brien was ordered to 40 hours of community service over the next six months to have charges related to possessing a fake ID, resisting arrest and underage drinking dropped. He must also submit to an alcohol assessment.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, if O’Brien completes his community service and stays out of trouble, all charges will be dropped at his next hearing. That hearing is currently scheduled for August 14. Former linebacker Dontavis Sapp (pictured) will have his charges dropped under similar circumstances as well. Both players had to pay court costs as well as part of the agreements in place.

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson has a court appearance scheduled for Friday. It seems optimistic he will be able to work a similar agreement.

Earlier this month O’Brien, Sapp and Johnson were among seven football players cited for various alcohol-related offenses after police were called to check on a disturbance at an apartment in Knoxville.

As far as football is concerned, O’Brien and Johnson are still a part of the team, and their position on the roster does not appear to be in great jeopardy. As long as they avoid any other legal troubles, that should remain the case for the Vols.