Already projected as an NFL Top Five draft pick, Johnson is the only returnee from last year's Butkus Award (nation's top LB) finalists. He is Texas' first consensus All-American linebacker since Jeff Leiding in 1983. Johnson has tallied 328 tackles (208 solo), 46 tackles for loss (T-No. 9 on the UT all-time list/second-best among LBs), 8.5 sacks, 29 QB pressures, 22 PBUs (a UT record for LBs) and eight interceptions (T-No. 1 on UT's interceptions by a LB list) in 38 career games (28 starts).
Big 12 Conference players joining Johnson on the Nagurski Watch List are DT Jermaine Berry (Kansas State), DE Jason Berryman (Iowa State), DE Dan Cody (Oklahoma), LB Justin Crooks (Baylor), DE Adell Duckett (Texas Tech), LB James Kinney, (Missouri) and DB Darrent Williams (Oklahoma State).
Meanwhile, Wright is looking to join a list of three Longhorns (Scott Appleton, 1963; Tommy Nobis, 1965; Brad Shearer, 1977) that have claimed the Outland Trophy. Two other UT players (Dan Neil, 1996; Leonard Davis, 2000) have been finalists for the Outland Trophy.
The Outland Trophy is presented to college football's top interior lineman on either side of the ball (tackles, centers, guards ). The award has been bestowed annually since 1946 and is the third oldest award in college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award.
The 2004 Outland Trophy winner will be announced on Dec. 9 at the ESPN College Football Awards Show from Orlando, Fla. The Outland Trophy will be presented to the winner at a January banquet in Omaha, Nebraska.
Wright was recently tabbed a preseason first-team All-Big 12 pick by the media. Wright was a consensus second-team All-Big 12 pick as a sophomore after recording 80 tackles, a team-leading 7.5 sacks, 12 TFLs, a team-leading 30 pressures, three passes batted down and three forced fumbles. A preseason candidate for the Lombardi Trophy, Wright has played in 26 career games, compiling 145 tackles, 12 sacks, 25 TFLs, 45 pressures, three passes batted down and three forced fumbles.
Big 12 Conference athletes joining Wright on the watch list are OT Jermaine Berry (Kansas State), OT Jammal Brown (Oklahoma), C Vince Carter (Oklahoma), DT Dusty Dvoracek, (Oklahoma), C Geoff Hangartner, (Texas A&M), C Richie Incognito, (Nebraska) and C Joe Vaughn (Kansas).