How Deandre Johnson grew by moving into the Tennessee dorms this offseason
Deandre Johnson made a decision a few months ago that saved money and it is paying off for Tennessee.
The Tennessee linebacker left his off-campus housing and moved back onto campus during the offseason.
“The biggest thing was I didn’t have to pay rent,” Johnson said. “That was a big lift off my shoulders. I was just able to focus on myself and dial in and settle down. I had a lot of things going on around me. It just helped me settle down.”
Johnson was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after a standout performance against South Carolina on Saturday. The senior matched his 2019 sack total in a single game with 2 ½ in the a 31-27 season-opening win for No. 20 Tennessee (1-0).
Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt praised Johnson on Saturday for an increased maturity, which he felt was reflected in Johnson moving back on campus.
Johnson’s explanation of the decision backed up Pruitt’s belief.
“I just wanted to focus on my body and focus on understanding the scheme more,” Johnson said. “Moving back to the dorms, it got me back grounded and I am thankful for it. It helped out in a big way.”
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Johnson has played in 31 games in his Tennessee career with four starts. He made three in 2019 across from Darrell Taylor, who provided a steady pass rush presence that the Vols had to replace in 2020.
Johnson eased concerns with his six-tackle performance with a forced fumble against the Gamecocks.
His breakout performance followed an offseason focused on learning to be an elite pass rusher. His first lesson came from watching Taylor, whom Johnson praised as having an elite jump on the ball. He also watched film to learn about process offensive linemen.
Johnson’s time in the dorm away from unspecified distractions provided him the time he needed to hone his ability. He said he found his groove in the second week of preseason practices.
“One of the biggest things I had to focus on was understanding why we call certain plays, what we’re trying to give the offense and what scheme we’re trying to accomplish with that play called,” Johnson said. “Just figuring that out, it’s helped me big time. …
“From there on out, I haven’t looked back.”
Johnson has since moved back off campus for his final season at Tennessee. But the focus he gained by being back in the dorms again remains as the Vols prepare to face Missouri (0-1) on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network).
“I use some of the things I learned this summer to help me now,” Johnson said. “I am just even-keeled right now. I am focused on the things I need to be focused on.”
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.