That seems to be the burning question after Michigan topped Indiana 34-10 for its homecoming win Saturday, and were led by Johnson’s emergence off the bench in the running game.
Johnson, who had career -highs in carries, yards and touchdowns, led the Wolverines’ with 16 carries for 123-yards and two touchdowns.
While his career day may be surprising, the bigger surprise may that he did it behind the struggling Michigan offensive line. A unit that hasn’t produced a 100-yard rusher sin their win over Miami (Ohio) in week 3.
“I think we did block a little bit better,” redshirt junior center Jack Miller said. “I think Drake [Johnson] made us look better, you know? It’s kind of one of those things where we didn’t cap everyone or if you could get to the safety, which is all you can do sometimes, he would make guys miss. And turn maybe a four-yard run into maybe a 18-yard run or whatever it was. So probably a little bit of both.”
“I don’t think we would have recruited him here if we didn’t think he would have a chance to be pretty good,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of Johnson. “I thought they blocked the line of scrimmage pretty well. I think [Johnson] read some things pretty well.”
Coming off an lost season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2013, now a redshirt sophomore, Johnson has only played on special teams most of this season, and had only five carries this season heading into his game with Indiana.
“We thought in the spring he could’ve done something a little,” Hoke said of Johnson dealing his injury. “But we were wise enough to keep him out. Once you get through that whole year cycle you feel a little better.”
Hoke added that was major reason why Johnson entered the fall behind Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith and Justice Hayes. He also said Johnson was behind the other three backs in pass protection development.
“He’s kind of one of those backs, at least the way he played the other day where he would get hit with a three-yard gain and turn into six,” Miller said of Johnson. “You know, just puts his head down for an extra couple yards. At the end of the day that ends up paying off a lot.”
But after Saturday’s heavy workload, Johnson may have earned some more carries. At lease he should anyways.