Hatcher signs through 2015, Johnson sees all-star action

Ed Marlowe
Staff writer


Fasten your seatbelts because the “Hatch Attack” is staying put for awhile.

File Photo by Nate Brelsford/The News

Allen Ward, director of athletics, announced on Jan. 5 the extension of Head Coach Chris Hatcher’s contract for two more years, ending on Dec. 31, 2015.

“He’s done a tremendous job leading our football program, brought excitement back to Stewart Stadium and built a team in a short period of time that can compete with the best in the OVC and the FCS,” Ward said in a press release.

Hatcher guided the Racers to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons. The Racers finished 6-5 in 2010 and 7-4 in 2011, going 5-1 to end both successful campaigns and 6-0 in November.

“I’m very grateful of both Allen Ward and Dr. Randy Dunn for this gracious extension,” Hatcher said. “I believe we’re headed in the right direction.”

While he believes success on the field is important, Hatcher said he’s most proud of the team’s off-the-field accomplishments.

“We’ve progressed in wins, but we’ve really progressed in pride, academics and community involvement as a football team,” he said.

With his contract extension out of the way, Hatcher is now focused on the offseason, looking for talent at all positions through spring recruitment.

“Injuries really slowed us down last year,” he said. “We have to find quality depth at all positions and do a good job developing that depth this offseason.”

Perhaps his biggest task will be to find former senior running back Mike Harris’ replacement. Harris finished his Racer career with 1,922 yards rushing, 23 touchdowns and nearly six yards per carry en route to becoming one of the best rushers in the OVC.

“Whether it’s one, two or three guys to get the job done, we have to find a replacement for Harris,” Hatcher said. “We have to find a productive running game for next season.”


Johnson showcases talent at all-star game


Hatcher received a phone call from former Murray State head coach Houston Nutt regarding one of Hatcher’s star players.

“(Nutt) said he wanted (Dontrell) Johnson to play wide receiver for his all-star team,” Hatcher said. “I was really surprised.”

Former senior defensive back and return specialist Dontrell Johnson was selected to play wide receiver for Nutt’s East Stars in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game held on Jan. 16 at Kino Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.

“Dontrell has been a really good player for us,” Hatcher said. “He’s been a great defensive back and return man for the past two seasons.”

Johnson finished his senior year having played both the defensive back and return positions with authority. Though injured for most of the season, he finished with an OVC-leading 12 pass deflections and Racer-best 16.2 yards per punt return, garnering All-OVC Second Team honors for his accolades.

With a 4.37 40-yard dash and great return lane vision, Johnson has the speed to stretch the defense and break a big play in the passing game.

Johnson proved his skills early in the second half, catching a short sideline pass from LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee and turning it into a huge play for the Stars.

Matthew Elder, director of scouting for BuffaloBillsDraft.com, provided some analysis of Johnson’s skills through his live Twitter feed of the all-star game.

“Dontrell Johnson (WR-Murray St) can fly,” Elder tweeted. “(He) got loose down the sideline for a huge gain.”

Johnson was on the losing end of the affair as Stripes quarterback Zac Dickey (Pittsburgh State) snuck in from the 1-yard line for a last-minute 17-14 victory.

Contact Marlowe.