November 10, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Northwestern Wildcats in the third quarter at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 38-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

U-M Football: Can Drake Johnson win starting RB spot this fall?

Apr 13, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Drake Johnson (29) runs the ball during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium (Drake now wears No. 20). Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports



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.”

ACL tear

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.

Trackman 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 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

“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.” ♦

Who will earn Michigan's tailback job this fall?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Please comment on our GBMWolverine Message Board about this article and read what others write.  Go ahead and give us your thoughts, agree or disagree.

Just a reminder you must be a member to participate on the Message Board. Here is the link GBMWolverine Register for those people interested in becoming a member.

You can contact us at our e-mail address: GBMWolverine

Follow us on Twitter:

@Mike Fitzpatrick

Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Next Wolverines Game Full schedule »
Saturday, Oct 2525 Oct3:30at Michigan State SpartansBuy Tickets

Tags: Coach Brady Hoke Go Blue Michigan Football Michigan Wolverines Spring Football

comments powered by Disqus