Eastern football has talent, depth at running back position


The Daily Eastern News

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Eastern running back Isaiah Johnson takes handoff form Mitch Kimble in a Panthers’ 22-20 win over Indiana State last season. Johnson was selected as a preseason all-conference player.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

It became very evident during Eastern football’s first team scrimmage of the fall that the running back position for the Panthers runs deep with productive players. 

The addition of Independence Community College transfer Jamal Scott to a unit that already had preseason all-conference running back Isaiah Johnson, junior Darshon McCullough and redshirt-junior Robert Columbus, now gives the Panthers four options at running back to rotate into the games.

“We’re very excited, when one is tired the next one is up,” McCullough said. “We’ve got a lot of talent just ready to compete.”

During that first scrimmage, Scott showed off his power-style running by running over multiple defenders. Johnson got limited touches, but the Panthers already know what their all-conference back provides. McCullough ran well too, frequently finding holes for big gains, and Columbus ran wild, juking and avoiding defenders in open space. 

“Jamal (Scott) is a great back, he is pretty elusive for his size,” McCullough said. “Robert (Columbus), he’s a nice hard downhill runner.”

Head coach Kim Dameron saw a lot of the same McCullough did and he, too, was very pleased with the performance of the running backs in the scrimmage. 

“I thought all of (the running backs) ran hard, protected the football, we didn’t have contact fumbles, so I was pleased with the running backs,” Dameron said. 

Johnson will likely receive the most amount of playing time as a back this season, and head coach Kim Dameron said his role in the new offense will remain what it was last season when he ran for 683 yards and five touchdowns.

“(The new offense) is a little different but the offensive coordinator said a couple of things that I don’t want to give out the secret to but yeah we all have a little plan in set and for the most part everyone is just trying to play their role,” Johnson said. “The more we can do that the more the team can just play their role together and the offense will just do itself.”

Johnson is also returning with an extra dose of confidence after his preseason all-conference selection.

“It definitely gave me a lot of confidence. It kind of puts a little pressure on my name trying to live up to that hype,” Johnson said. “But I am all for it. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel like I am somebody that this team can count on and that these coaches can count on. It’s just an award that I am so honored to have right now.”

Every running back Eastern has brings something different to the table. Scott, at 6 foot and 205 pounds, brings a hard style of running that frequently results with defensive backs ending up on the ground rather than Scott. 

At Independence community college last season, he ran for 306 yards but added seven touchdowns. It would not be shocking to see Scott playing into goal line packages for the Panthers. 

Columbus just moved from special teams to offense last season, but he has showed he can make defenders miss and hit holes well when they are created. 

At this point in his Eastern career, the staff knows what they can expect from McCullough; an all-around well-balanced running back that can gain ground for the team when called upon (last season he averaged five yards per carry). 

JJ Bullock can be reached at 

581-2812 or [email protected].