After his media-frenzied recruitment, one might assume No. 1 ranked and 5-star rated Derrick Green would eventually become Michigan’s starting tailback. But the combination of a sore ankle and his overweight frame [240 lbs. last fall vs. 227 today (Mar. 26)], allowed redshirt freshman Drake Johnson (6’0, 212) to sneak past Green to take the back-up spot behind senior Fitz Toussaint.
In the opener against Central Michigan, Johnson tore an ACL after just two rushing attempts and was lost for the season.
Running game fails to impress
Green and fellow freshman De’Veon Smith shared the backup duties the rest of the season. Toussaint, who has since graduated, didn’t have a banner season as the starter (648 yds., 3.5 per carry). Both Green (270 yds, 3.3 per carry) and Smith (117 yards, 4.5 per carry) had back-up style numbers. Those are skewed a bit, since QB Devin Gardner gained a net 483 yards after subtracting 268 yards in losses from 35 sacks.
Like the quarterback position, the competition for the tailback job has been fierce. Green, is back down to 227 lbs. and Smith is trying to prove his 4.5 average was no fluke. Redshirt freshman Wyatt Shallman is working out at several positions while former defensive back Ross Douglas has moved to offense to show why he gained 2,000 yards in high school.
“Wyatt Shallman’s playing h-back (a combo fullback, tight end) and running back to give us a little more depth.” coach Brady Hoke said. “That position is so critical to see what Wyatt can give us back there.”
Johnson, who has been limited this spring because of the acl tear, still could win the job this fall.
An under-the-radar recruit who played just a three-wood shot from the Big House at Pioneer High, has a dazzling resume.
As a high school senior, Johnson gained 2,805 yards on 343 carries (with 37 touchdowns).
He also made quite an impression in a 2010 meeting with eventual state champion Detroit Cass Tech (2011-12).
Huge day vs. Cass Tech
All he did was score on a 79-yard punt return, a 41-yard interception return, a 19-yard run, and a pair of receptions (18, 26). He also threw a seven-yard pass in the 44-42 loss to the Technicians.
Johnson finally received some respect, being named to the 2011 Associated Press All-State team and Detroit Free Press Dream Team.
Instead of working the camps as a high school junior, Johnson ran track instead. And he did it quite well, eventually earning All-America honors in the 110-meter high hurdles.
ESPN.com ranked Johnson as the No.160 back in the nation along with a 2-star rating. Other than Michigan, Johnson’s only other offer came from Eastern Michigan.
I didn’t go around to these camps and have to show out, Johnson told annarbor.com. I kind of just did it. I proved that I was the best on the field. Not at these camps that are like “Oh, he can go through cones quickly, he can jump high.” It was on the field, Johnson added. I didn’t have to go buy stars.”
Although he was redshirted two seasons ago, Johnson impressed recently graduated linebacker Kenny Demens at practice: “First of all, Drake Johnson is another player who gave us problems on scout team, Demens told Scout.com.
“Drake was one of those guys that when Coach (Greg) Mattison ripped our butts wide open it was because Drake Johnson more than likely did his thing, got loose on us… whatever it was,”Demens added.
“Drake is going to be a great player. I like his style. He runs hard. If he sees me in the hole he is going to bring me his all and that was big coming from an 18-year old.” ♦
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer
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