Johnson Gains Confidence, Ready to Start?

Michigan RB Drake Johnson hopes to turn his perfomance vs. Indiana into another at Northwestern. Will Johnson get the start at tailback for the Wolverines? Brady Hoke also updates the status of Derrick Green.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Same offensive line and same scheme but Saturday in Michigan’s 34-10 win over Indiana, there was different results.

Results provided from newfound opportunity for Michigan sophomore running back Drake Johnson.

Following a second quarter injury to sophomore tailback De’Veon Smith, Johnson took the field breaking out for an 18-yard run on his first carry.

In the second half, it only continued. Johnson would finish with 16 rushes for 122-yards and two touchdowns.

So, Brady Hoke, Johnson will be the starter when the Wolverines take the field at Northwestern Saturday afternoon, right?

“I think we always have that competition going and how guys practice and how they learn if there’s new wrinkles and all that, that’s a big part of it,” Hoke said Wednesday. “He’s practiced very well.

“We’ll see closer to game time what we’ll do as far as who’ll be the starter but the competition with him, De’Veon and Justice is really good and we’re excited about what Drake’s progress has been and the hard work that he’s put in and how he’s developed.”

Johnson’s second and final touchdown of the Indiana game came late in the fourth quarter, a score from 16-yards out. Slithering through a hole to the right, Johnson made several defenders miss en route to the end zone.

“I think in that touchdown run it was more, like I think representative of my running style,” Johnson said. “Just instinctive. When I’m running I’m not necessarily like I need to think or have this entire thought process when I’m running.

“It’s just; see something go, see something go, see something go. When I was running the ball when I had broken the first tackle and I was going this way I just knew once he had taken two steps that way all his momentum was going that way so if I went this way he wasn’t going to be able to get me.”

Johnson of course hopes to do much of the same in Evanston Saturday at 3:30. Northwestern comes in giving up 166.1 yards rushing per game including 4.1 yards per carry.

Against the Hoosiers, Johnson averaged 7.6 yards per rush.

“It was a huge confidence booster, I’m not going to lie,” Johnson said. “But I think the biggest thing to do is just put it in the past. It’s one game.

“Regardless of any opponent it has to be just one game, you have to be able to put it in the shoebox. That’s what my dad always tells me, play it and then it’s gone.”

As an offense and more specifically as a team hoping to find a consistent running attack, Michigan is looking to go over 100-yards two weeks in a row.

“I think that’s really what we’re focusing on as a team this week, is focusing on Northwestern,” Johnson said. “The offensive line is doing wonderful. Nothing that I even did Saturday is even possible without them.

“They’re opening up amazing holes and they’re getting all the blocks they need to get so it’s really me just taking what they’re giving me.”

“This week it’s just about feeling out Northwestern’s defense,” Johnson added.

Green to return?

Following Michigan’s 26-24 loss at Rutgers on Oct. 4, Brady Hoke announced sophomore running back Derrick Green would miss the remainder of the season after breaking his clavicle.

Wednesday, Hoke updated the status of Green.

“I think it’s going to be another two, three weeks as far as I can tell and what we’ve talked about,” Hoke said. “He’s getting better, he’s doing a lot of alternate conditioning and things you want him to do.”

Green, who rushed for 471-yards on 82 carries with three touchdowns, emerging as Michigan’s starter at tailback, could return by the end of the season but Hoke wouldn’t confirm that possibility.

“I think Derrick, he’s getting better,” he said. “I can’t give you an exact time.”

The Michigan Insider Top Stories