Column: Panthers’ top performers from 2019

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

This week would have been week one of the 2020 season for the Eastern football team. The Panthers were scheduled to host Indiana State on Thursday.

That game, along with all of the other games of the season, was canceled as a result of COVID-19.

There will still be some football happening on campus this semester, as the Panthers are able to begin practicing again on Monday.

As the team returns to the field to prepare for this season, whenever it may begin, let’s look back at the 2019 season and highlight some of the team’s standout performers.

 

Isaiah Hill

The Eastern offense may have averaged just 14.8 points per game last season, the that does not mean that the offense did not have some dynamic playmakers.

Wide receiver Isaiah Hill, despite playing in only eight games, led the team in receptions (57), receiving yards (569) and receiving touchdowns (4). He also rushed for 2 touchdowns on the season.

Hill was a redshirt-sophomore last season after transferring to Eastern from South Dakota State. After redshirting in 2017, Hill appeared in 11 games for the Jackrabbits in the 2018 season.

His first season in the OVC was a success, and Hill was named to the All-OVC Newcomer Team. He also earned OVC Offensive Player of the Week honors Nov. 17 after recording 13 catches for 152 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown catch.

Hill ranked 31st in the FCS in receptions per game with 7.5, which was also the sixth-most in Eastern football history.

 

Jaelin Benefield

Hill was not the only member of the Panther offense to be named to the All-OVC Newcomer Team in 2019.

True-freshman running back Jaelin Benefield joined Hill on the honorary squad.

Benefield led the team in rushing attempts (125), rushing yards (402) and rushing touchdowns (5). He also was second to Hill in receptions (39), receiving yards (299) and receiving touchdowns (2).

He was the first freshman to lead the Panthers in rushing since Vincent Webb in 2003. Webb finished his career in second place on Eastern’s all-time rushing list.

Benefield’s best game came against Tennessee State on Nov. 9, which was the Panthers’ lone win on the season. He ran the ball 14 times for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns and  also recorded 4 catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.

He was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week the following day.

 

Dytarious Johnson

On the defensive side of the ball, Eastern linebacker Dytarious Johnson stands out physically and statistically.

In his junior season in 2019, Johnson finished tied for the team lead with 67 tackles and led the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He also paced the Panthers with 4 forced fumbles which led the OVC and ranked fifth in the FCS.

Johnson was named second team All-OVC. He also moved into seventh place on Eastern’s all-time list with 36.5 career tackles for loss.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]