Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #59 Drake Johnson

Drake Johnson (#29) - image via Saturday Edge
Name: Drake Johnson
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 212 lbs.
High school: Ann Arbor (MI) Pioneer
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #20
Last year: I ranked Johnson #63 and said he would be a backup running back and special teams player. He had 2 carries for 9 yards before tearing his ACL in the first game.

Johnson earned a little bit of buzz starting during the lead-up to the bowl game against South Carolina during his true freshman year. Brady Hoke said that he wished guys who redshirted during the regular season could play in the bowl game, and he mentioned Johnson by name. Despite having players with bigger recruiting profiles, Johnson was the #2 running back to enter the season and carried the ball 2 times for 9 yards against Central Michigan. Unfortunately for him, he blew out his ACL on kick coverage and missed the rest of the year.

Johnson was still limited this spring, but Hoke has indicated that he will be 100% by the beginning of the season. Last year's starter, Fitzgerald Toussaint, has graduated, but it seems that the two front-runners for the starting gig this year are sophomores DeVeon Smith and Derrick Green. Redshirt junior Justice Hayes appears to be the third-down back, so it's unclear where Johnson can figure into the mix. His situation could be further compromised if USC transfer Ty Isaac gets a waiver to play this year (Isaac was not in the equation when I put together the list initially). Assuming Isaac is forced to redshirt, Johnson should earn a few carries because Hoke appears to like him. However, he should not factor heavily into the rotation, and his best chance to play might be on special teams, where his speed and sturdiness can be an asset.

Prediction: Backup running back, special teams player


  1. Hope that Drake is fully recovered from his knee injury. It's a bummer for him because he would have gotten a good look in '13. '14 will be a little tougher because there are already three backs established ahead of him, and two are younger. I have read that Drake was a very good track athlete in HS. Although in his freshman spring game, he did not show signs of the acceleration/burst that the good backs tend to have - perhaps he is more of a strider. He looked much bigger this off season. At minimum, he looks the part of a good special teams player.

    1. Hopely he can carve out his nitch in the special team. Not really sure if he can beat out Green-Smith-Issac trio -- looking at his films I am not really seeing the instinct that good backs have in addition to physical strength and speed. I am not putting too much weight on Hoke's words about Drake Johnson -- of course he wants to encourage all players to work hard and that includes not shunning those who most likely won't get reps. Borges raving about Brian Cleary is a good example.

  2. Johnson and Peppers in the return game? Hell yes!

  3. Any idea on when a decision will be made on the waiver? I've seen conflicting information - but I would think they would need to know before fall camp begins?

    1. He already red-shirted and still got 3 years ahead of him

  4. I'd like to see him return kickoffs with his speed, but as we add WR talent it's going to be tougher. Peppers and Norfleet seem to be options 1 and 2 for the job, so we'll see...

    Agree he could be a nice special teams contributor, even if he isn't carrying the ball.