Johnson has high expectations for senior year

Charles Lettner, Football Reporter

The Eastern football team is back in action this week, having resumed practices Aug 31. Games are not in the near future for the Panthers, even though their conference foe Austin Peay strapped it up against Central Arkansas last week who lost 24-17.

Eastern senior linebacker Dytarious Johnson said it felt odd to hear that 2019 OVC Champions Austin Peay was playing in the fall with a pandemic.

“It was strange, we usually don’t see each other play because we’re playing around the same time,” Johnson said.

The Eastern defense showed a lot of promise for the Panthers last season despite a 1-11 record. Johnson said he felt that the defense will be better than last season.

“We have gotten older, bigger, and stronger,” he said

Johnson said the team’s mentality going into the season is the same no matter when they begin to play games.

“We just want to win,” he said.

He also said he likes what he has seen so far in the youth brought in by head coach Adam Cushing over the past two recruiting classes with just over 80 newcomers in Cushing’s first two recruiting classes.

“With their speed and athleticism, it challenges us older guys,” Johnson said.  “The upper classmen are pushing the new comers harder to make each other better every day.”

Cushing said the mix of youth and veterans can be a benefit for the team, but having veterans like Johnson in place can be huge.

“The old adage, the cliché there’s nothing like experience, there’s no substitute for experience, is absolutely true,” he said. “They’re clichés for a reason.”

Cushing also praised Johnson’s ability on the football field. 

“He’s a player with god given talent, knows how to play the game,” Cushing said.

Cushing elaborated that Johnson has had the talent of terrorizing opponents’ backfields since high school, but Johnson was not your big-time prospect. He was a three-star recruit in the state of Alabama, but the potential was there. He was originally committed to Michigan after receiving a scholarship offer.

A transcript error caused Michigan to withdraw its offer, and Eastern could not have been more blessed to receive a talented individual with serious potential.

Eastern had just lost star defender Kamu Grugier-Hill, who was drafted 208th overall in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots.

Johnson is determined to continue to be a force for the Panthers defense as he is seventh all-time in tackles for loss. If you ever talk with Johnson, he will say he’s a team player first. Stats are not his priority, but before he leaves Eastern, he hopes he can claim something that not every Panther has achieved, and that is winning a conference title.


Charles Lettner can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]