The OVC handed out postseason honors for its football players Thursday.
Three Eastern players were named to All-OVC teams, with sophomore linebacker Jason Johnson being named All-OVC first team, redshirt-senior defensive back Mark Williams being named All-OVC second team and redshirt-freshman wide receiver Matt Judd being named to the second team as a kick returner.
Johnson served as an anchor for the Panther defense throughout the spring season, a defense that allowed 3.6 yards per rush, the third-best mark in the OVC.
Johnson led the conference with 66 tackles this spring, despite Eastern having its final game of the season canceled.
Murray State linebacker Eric Samuta finished second in the conference with 64 tackles, but Johnson’s average of 11 tackles per game was nearly two tackles more than Samuta’s average of 9.1.
Johnson starting breaking out in the second half of his freshman season, averaging 8.6 tackles per game over the last five games in 2019. He ended up finishing third on the team with 59 tackles that season.
After recording 7 and 8 tackles in the first two games this season, he closed out the season with totals of 14, 15, 11 and 11 tackles.
He was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week following his 15-tackle effort against Tennessee Tech on March 21.
It was the first time since 2016 that an Eastern defender recorded 15 or more tackles and the first time since 2017 that an Eastern defender was named Player of the Week.
He also tied for eighth in the conference with 6 tackles for loss this season.
Johnson became the first Eastern defender to be named All-OVC first team since linebacker Seth McDonald in 2016.
Williams earns the second team honors in his final season with the Panthers, and throughout his career has been among the most effective pass defenders in program history.
He finished tied for eighth in the OVC with 6 passes defended this season, including 2 interceptions and a touchdown.
He was one of 12 players in the OVC to record multiple interceptions this spring.
Williams is now tied for fifth in Eastern history with 26 pass breakups.
Judd came to Eastern this year after redshirting at Illinois last season.
He made an impact on offense and special teams, but it was the latter that earned him a spot on the second team.
He led the OVC this spring with 298 kick return yards and an average of 24.8 yards per return, including a long of 53 yards against Tennessee-Martin on March 7. He also caught 5 passes in that game for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers will open up the 2021 season on Aug. 28 against Indiana State on the road.
Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]