If college is all about adapting, consider Zackary Johnson a well-adjusted young man.
Two years ago, Johnson started at center in the spring game – at Washington State.
Now he’s the heir apparent to start at defensive end this fall at Eastern Washington.
Switching schools and switching positions – many players have done one or the other, but few have done both.
“The toughest part was that I had to get back into D-line shape,” said Johnson, explaining that while offensive linemen need short bursts of power, “they don’t need to run 50 yards from sideline to sideline, four times in a row,” as a defender often must.
“I’ve worked really hard, and put in the extra time to make it work,” Johnson said.
That’s what Johnson thought he was doing for three years in Pullman, working his way from fourth string to the two-deep. But he saw the handwriting on the wall when new WSU coach Mike Leach recruited seven new offensive linemen in the 2012 class.
Johnson’s move to Eastern also was driven by the school’s strong computer sciences department but also by the chance for a fresh start on the field, said Johnson who prepped in Stanwood, Wash., north of Everett.
The problem? Johnson struggled to add to his 6-foot-2, 275-pound frame, so another move was in order. By last spring, he was on defense.
“He’s really mentally tough,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “He’s a good fit for our program and an even better fit on the D-line, plus he really cares about improving.”
Last year, Johnson subbed at field end for Anthony Larry and registered 34 tackles including two for loss, plus a fumble recovery.
“Overall, it wasn’t a tough transition at all,” Johnson said.
After assessing film from Saturday’s scrimmage – the Eagles’ first of three this spring – Baldwin said he was pleased with the “cleanness” on both sides of the ball. By that he meant a lack of mistakes, penalties, and getting on and off the field in a timely fashion. “However, you can always find things to work on, no matter how the scrimmage finished up. Baldwin also said he thought the team is “slightly ahead of where we were (in prior years) in terms of tempo. But if you don’t build on that, you find yourself behind.” … Baldwin also said he’s changed his mind about the next scrimmage, scheduled for about 10 a.m. on Saturday. He initially wanted a situational scrimmage, but after viewing film, he decided to place the ball at various spots on the field to replicate a full drive.