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Brandon Johnson on redshirting: ‘I knew it’s what I had to do’

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A move that should pay off for both sides.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 UAB at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brandon Johnson has had one of the most unique college careers that you’ll ever see. From Tennessee’s leading receiver as a sophomore, to completely out of the rotation as a senior — Johnson saw an opportunity. That opportunity was filled with sacrifice, but might just pay off for him in 2020.

Johnson opted to take a redshirt season four games into his senior year, seeing a chance to play more in 2020 with Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway and Tyler Byrd leaving the picture. He now returns as one of Jarrett Guarantano’s top options, alongside of Josh Palmer.

“It was a tough decision,” Johnson said on The Slice podcast. “But at the same time, once I made my decision, I was at peace with it. Yeah, it wasn’t fun to sit out. I got tired of sitting out, but at the same time, I knew it’s what I had to do.”

Johnson caught 37 passes for 482 yards and one touchdown in 2017. It was a bright second season for the former three-star prospect, who ranked 508th in the class of 2016. However, Johnson failed to build off of that success. He fell out of the rotation when Jeremy Pruitt’s staff arrived as others emerged. He contributed on special teams and operated as a reserve, but not much else, which ultimately resulted in his decision to redshirt.

But Johnson found a bright spot as he once again waited for his turn.

“Every day you go to practice, you still get better,” said Johnson. “Every day you go to practice, you can help other guys get better, no matter what the circumstances are. It’s something that I had to do, and like I said, once I made my decision, I was at peace with it, because I knew I got another year coming up and another year to help the team the best way I can.”

Tennessee is now looking for a couple of answers at the receiver spot with Jennings and Callaway now gone. Josh Palmer will become the No. 1 target in the offense, but everything else is open. Brandon Johnson operated out of the slot position in 2017 and certainly could return to that role this season.

The Volunteers have several other options as well. Ramel Keyton and Cedric Tillman will be in the mix, along with incoming USC transfer Velus Jones. Georgia transfer Deangelo Gibbs is now eligible and makes for an interesting wildcard piece. Tennessee also signed four four-star receivers in the class of 2020 — Jalin Hyatt, Malachi Wideman, Dee Beckwith and Jimmy Calloway.

For Johnson, it says something about his character to stick around. It’s a no-brainer of an opportunity, sure, but these days you see most kids transfer out of a situation like he was in. That patience is now set to pay off, for both Tennessee and Johnson.