According to Sam Webb ($, info in header), Josh Helmholdt ($), and also Drake Johnson himself, the Ann Arbor Pioneer running back was just offered by Michigan and committed this morning. Johnson becomes the 24th member of the class of 2012, leaving four spots left in what's expected to be a 28-man class.
As you can see, Johnson is very much an under-the-radar prospect, garnering two-star ratings from Scout and ESPN while not being ranked at all by Rivals or 24/7. The consensus on his size is about 6'1", 205, though when I saw him last weekend (more on that later), I thought he looked a little shorter and a bit under 200 pounds, but that's one man's impressions from the bleachers.
There's not a whole lot out there on Johnson, as one might expect for a sleeper prospect, but ESPN has a full evaluation ($):
This is a productive guy with good inside and outside running skills; we see the ability to shed and pull through tackles; is productive returning punts; flashes good underneath coverage skills as an outside linebacker and should be an effective special team's player. From a deep alignment this prospect displays good vision; is quick locating and getting into creases showing the elusiveness needed to make first tacklers miss in space. His quick feet and balance allow him to get outside where he does most of his damage; runs with and over the pads, downhill, slashing style; we see a short burst when in traffic with the deceptive long speed needed to outrun opponents at his present level of competition. Appears to have natural hands; is productive running the shuttle pass and seam route from a slot alignment; can catch in traffic while demonstrating the ability to adjust to throws out of his frame. This guy flashes the toughness needed to be an every down back, capable of staying on the field in long yardage situations.
One thing I certainly agree with here is Johnson's ability to play every down—he is essentially Pioneer's entire offense, regularly toting the rock 30+ times a game. His speed is also without question a strength, as Johnson is the two-time defending state champ in the 110-meter hurdles. In an article by Mick McCabe, Johnson says his track conditioning plays a big part in his ability to be a workhorse back:
In the past three games, he has gained 1,074 yards, and he has scored at least four touchdowns in each of the past four games.
This kid shouldn't be able to get out of bed the morning after games.
"I guess it's conditioning to get ready for it," Johnson said. "I did a lot more running because I run track, too. I spent an extra amount of time this summer just doing track workouts so I would be ready to carry the ball a bunch of times, because Coach had told me I was going to be carrying the rock a lot."
In a complete stroke of luck, I watched Johnson play in the district final against Temperance Bedford last week, and my prediction that he'd be a preferred walk-on at best clearly missed the mark. Here were my impressions of his game:
As a Pioneer grad, I hate to say this, but Johnson looked to me like a track athlete playing football, and not a player who should garner a BCS-level scholarship offer. His straight-ahead speed is very good, and that's all he needed against Bedford, but Johnson practically has to stop running entirely to make a cut—he really doesn't have any juke moves, instead choosing to bounce outside and run as fast as he can—and he also fumbled the ball three times (losing one) despite not taking any huge hits.
While Johnson usually fell forward, he also tended to go down on first contact, and instead of taking on hits he'd try to spin off contact, even against smaller defenders. The only time he really fought for extra yards, he ended up fumbling—he often carries the ball away from his body and seems to forget about ball security when he's in traffic. Pioneer listed him at 6'1", 215, and Scout has him in that same range, but he looked closer to 5'11", 190 to me (comparing him to his teammates and using the same roster, so take that with a grain of salt). Johnson is a heck of a high school player, and he's tasked with being the entirety of the Pioneer offense, but I see him as a preferred walk-on at best for Michigan.
I stand by my scouting report, and you can judge for yourself in the highlight video below. He's got the frame and the speed to be a BCS-caliber back, but I'm not sure I see the tools for success—namely in agility, power running, and ball security—necessary to deliver on that potential. Obviously, I'd love to be wrong here, especially when talking about a fellow Pioneer.
Before Michigan swooped in today, Johnson held just one scholarship offer for football (he's also a highly-sought track prospect), and that was from Eastern Michigan. Rivals lists interest but no offer from Army, Syracuse, and Toledo. One thing to note is that Johnson did not go to any football camps ($) after his junior year because of track, which could help explain the lack of evaluations/ratings/offers.
Johnson has put up some ridiculous numbers for Pioneer, rushing for 2757 yards and 37 TDs (plus one receiving) so far this season, which leaves him just 133 yards shy of the single-season state rushing record with an upcoming regional final against Detroit Catholic Central this weekend. As a junior, Johnson rushed for 2200 yards, according to Allen Trieu ($). Part of the numbers can be attributed to his huge workload—last weekend, he rushed 36 times for 348 yards and four touchdowns, and carried the ball on all but five or six of Pioneer's snaps—but his elite speed helps him break off huge runs with regularity—he also had a 95-yard touchdown run against Bedford.
FAKE 40 TIME
Since Johnson hasn't attended football camps, there's no 40 time reported on any of the four recruiting services, so no FAKEs to hand out. There are, however, very real numbers from his track career, and they are impressive:
55m hurdles - 7.76, set AAU Indoor National Record.
60m hurdles - 8.09, ranked in top ten in the country, indoor 2010
110m hurdles - 14.16, fastest freshman time run in the country. Placed 3rd at MHSAA Outdoor State Championships. Highest place for freshman hurdler in Michigan ever.
He's fast, yo.
Highlights from the first nine games of this season:
You've seen my thoughts on Johnson—I'm surprised he a got a scholarship offer at this point in the process—and I think he'll be a depth and special teams player for Michigan. His lack of agility and real power is disconcerting if the Wolverines expect him to become a feature back, though his speed and size make him an intruiging prospect regardless—he could find a home as a returner or special teams demon while trying to work his way up the depth chart at running back.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now down to four remaining open spots in the 2012 class, and there's still a very definite need for two receivers, with Michigan still very much in the mix for Jordan Payton, Amara Darboh, Monty Madaris, Jehu Chesson, and even Stefon Diggs. The question will be how they use their remaining two spots. Sam Webb said on WTKA this morning that he doesn't expect Johnson's commitment to affect how Michigan will pursue Bri'onte Dunn, and that makes sense to me—I'd be surprised if the coaching staff felt settled at running back with just Johnson in the fold.
If Michigan misses on Dunn, there are still two spots for another offensive lineman and a defensive back. If they don't, it'll be a tough decision for the coaches to figure out which position they prioritize higher (I'd guess O-line, but it would be difficult—and potentially impossible—to turn down Yuri Wright or Shaq Thompson if they were ready to commit and a spot was open). This almost surely rules out the possibility of the Wolverines taking two more offensive linemen in the class.
WARNING: I have no, nada, zip insider information so take this with a full salt lick worth of sodium chloride.
I think Hopkins should be on full "flight-risk" watch after the season is over: had off-the-field issues that got him in the doghouse, has been demoted from RB to FB and is from Texas. Personally, I'll be mildly surprised if he is still at UM next season.
I wouldn't call that position change a demotion. He probably doesn't see the field otherwise. Plus this actually gives him a chance at the next level. Borges also noted that Hopkins has "bought in" to being a full back.
Not sure if you're hating on our kids or the comment but
considering that Toussaint and Hopkins (and Denard) are already getting the bulk of the playtime then Smith, Rawls, Hayes, Houma, and Drake will be backups in 2012. 5 scholarship backups isn't really all that bad, especially when you see the motor Houma and Drake are running on.
Local kid who wants to play for Michigan and knew he had to work his way up to an offer, good straight line speed that can be used at kick returner and other special teams headhunting. I personally like this offer and am glad he's on board. Welcome Drake.
Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order because it is better organized.
Congrats to Drake Johnson. Three guys have left or will leave the ranks of "Michigan tailback" by the start of 2012, so getting 2 TBs is probably a necessity for the team.
Imagine the joy this kid must have had this morning when he got the offer. Then he gets to read columns stating he's not worth a scholarship at the school across the street, despite his destruction of most every team on his schedule despite not going the "camp route."
Let him have his moment. It's an achievement very few achieve through in-season performance only, and one we should congratulate him for.
Let me just say this—I'm as happy for Drake Johnson as anyone. He seems like a good kid, and I always love seeing Pioneer kids get to play at Michigan. I grew up in Ann Arbor and went to Pioneer, too, and I can only imagine how incredible it must feel to get the opportunity to play in the Big House after growing up underneath its shadow.
That said, I'm here to evaluate recruits, and I'd be pretty worthless as a scout if I didn't say what I felt. I'm not saying Drake doesn't deserve a scholarship—he's worked hard, played hard, and got the attention of the coaching staff—just that I was surprised he earned one based on what I've seen of him. It's just my opinion, man. I really wish him the best, hope he wildly exceeds my expectations, and I sent him a message of congratulations on Twitter as soon as I saw the news.
There's a difference between "I don't think this player is a BCS-level scholarship tailback" (an opinion based in what I've seen) with "This kid doesn't deserve a scholarship offer" (an opinion as well, but one that takes on a much more personal tone). Like I said, Johnson has worked hard and played well, and if the coaches give him a scholarship, then he deserves it. Who am I to say that a high school kid doesn't deserve a full ride to Michigan? All I'm saying is I'm surprised by the offer.
Every commit is crucial. That said, we also don't know what's going on behind the scenes. Clearly, the coaches offered this kid knowing full well he'd jump at the offer, so something happened. Do they know of a recruit that simply just isn't coming to Michigan; Dunn, Payton, Darboh, which could help make this make sense. For me, with only five spots left, I was hoping to wait and land the five best recruits we could. However, it seems the coaches - rightfully so, have a plan on what positions they want/need from this class, and are recruiting accordingly. The kid is 6'1 and very raw, so he could be the 2nd WR of this class, who knows... It's hard to figure this one out, though the offers are far more scarier than if he'll get a third star or not. Eastern Michigan offered ......... that's it, according to scout.com. That's very puzzling, but hopefully this will all make perfect sense on Feb. 2nd.
Agree. While I disagree with a lot of Ace's evaluation on Johnson, it's his job to give an opinion for the MGoCommunity. Then there are these comment boxes for you to perhaps voice yours. That's the funny thing about message boards and blogs with comment sections. Opinions get posted.
My opinion on Johnson is that he is much better than some are giving him credit. I think he is more elusive than Ace has given him credit for and I think his power is sufficient. If he sticks with the RB position I could see him being a very good back in the future. I honestly don't think, when looking at the highlight videos (yes, I realize that there is more to his game than highlight videos, but hey, it's all I got) that his physical skills will limit him. I'm not saying that he is going to be a straight forward plow ahaead back, but I am saying he's not Carlos Brown. Not by a long shot.
the point of this blog is to give readers information and opinions on Michigan football, not to make recruits feel all warm and fuzzy.
Edit: If we're going to insist that conversation about recruits be restricted to Colbertesque "Great Recruit? Or Greatest Recruit?" stuff, I'd rather this site just didn't talk about recruiting at all. That's a massive waste of everyone's time.
There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.
I think Ace is just being honest and thats what we expect as readers. Its not like he came out and said "this kid is a worthless pile of dogshit and I'd be shocked if he made it past his frosh year on the team". That would be much different. He was giving his opinion of the kid's talent. While I'm sure that wouldn't pump up Drake, I'm sure Ace isn't the first "scout" that has given that opinion or the last. All Drake has done so far is proven people wrong, no reason he can't keep doing it.
"A flute with no holes is not a flute. A donut with no hole is a danish"
This was negative, but I never thought it was unnecessarily harsh. Contrast that with the last negative Tim Hello post, where it bordered on mean-spirited. I guess it's the difference between saying "I don't have high hopes" vs. "He'll never amount to anything". It's a tough line, but I think Ace walked it pretty well in this post.
Maybe it's partly my/the board's fault too. Maybe we should have a "Welcome" post on the board so we can get the "awesome" and "great to have you stuff", and this can be a more honest assessment.
Nope. Even if he was offered as a track athlete, he'd count against the football team's numbers as soon as he suited up as a scholarship player—otherwise, teams would be stashing "track athletes" left and right. Alabama would probably have 150 guys on scholarship...
Hmm... im a little surprised by this, if we offered him the day before signing day im sure he would have committed (seeing his only offer is from eastern). I dont understandwhy the coaches wouldn't have waited at least a little bit before offering since were still inn it with dunno and possibly wes. I read the hello and assumed he took a preffered walk on spot
It took almost 3 minutes in to the highlight tape to see a touchdown run. Unless the clips were in chronological order, why would the video producer not put a long TD run as the first highlight? Very strange.
Seems like a project WR or RB in case we strike out on a target. Good speed, good hands, some vision issues and issues with cuts. He's basically the coaches insurance policy / depth and a special teams contributor. He's also a low risk to transfer if he ends up on the backside of the two deep.
With 4 spots left, I don't see where this would change our recruiting strategy. I figured we were looking for 2 WR, 1 OL, and 1 RB. Unless you pull in a QB or defensive player, it seems that we are still on track. If that does happen, though, it seems that Drake can count as a WR or RB, so if we get Dunn, we would take 1 more WR and probably have Drake play WR. If we don't get Dunn then we'll probably take 2 WR. This doesn't seem like too much of an issue to me.
This state has produced many good RB's, and if you can get more yards than anyone in history, that is saying a lot. While he has flaws, he also has proven skills - state recorded track times that are elite level. And his size is a plus, not a minus.
Oh, and he (will) gain more yards than anyone else in the history of this state. I tend to trust production.
I'm excited to see what he does for us.
Lastly, UM was this kid's dream team. I always love when a kid who truly loves Michigan gets to come and play for us - not just an excellent player who feels that UM is the best fit. That's a plus (and another reason I'm glad we got under-starred OH safety, Gant). These players can really add to the character and tradition of a team.
Streaming UM games early Sunday morning from Korea, since 2007
What great running backs has the state of Michigan produced? I'm asking an honest question here. I can only think of a few off the top of my head in the past 25 years or so - Tyrone Wheatley, Jerome Bettis, and TJ Duckett. I'm sure there are others and I'm going on only a couple hours of sleep, but I guess my point is...I don't really see Michigan as a Running Back Factory.
torin dorn played at southfield lathrup played with raiders, eric ball with ypsi high played at UCLA and then bengals, and way back max something or other who played for the jets in SB III played at AA Pi Hi. Brian Vooletich played RB and then went on the play for Perles at MSU. That's all i can think of off the top of my head.
PA Announcer: "Carry by number forty one, Rob Lytle" Crowd: "R-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-b Lytle!"
I think this kid looks great. He's fast, hits the hole and goes, and seems like a disciplined runner. The 2* rating was clearly given to him because he didn't attend any camps. Congrats Drake, look forward to seeing you in the maize and blue.
"I get to go to lots of overseas places, like Canada." -Britney Spears
Can I just say that I'm incredibly thrilled that we have the problem of "OMG what if we don't have room for ______, the 5* manbearfreak!" especially after getting a ton of highly ranked guys already. Welcome Drake, hope to see you on the field at some point!
So I've been thinking about this a little more. Let's say he's not 6'1 205, but more like 6'0" 195 (he's doesn't like 15-20 pounds smaller than that). Conservatively, he'll show up to fall camp around 200lbs, and he'll redshirt. Since Fitz will be around a couple more years, and Rawls will be ahead of him for a couple years, he probably won't see action until his RS soph season, at which point he could realistically be 220lbs. Maybe more, if the 205 current weight is legit, or he truly has the extra inch of height.
That would give us a sophomore RB who is 6'0" 220 with elite speed. At that point, he doesn't need great moves or cutting ability. As an upperclassman we could see a guy with near-Marcus Coker size with Toussaint speed. Most of the HS running backs with elite speed weight 170 or so, unless they're consensus top 100 guys.
This is obviously best case scenario, but we know he has elite speed and most RBs are able to put on 20lb of muscle in college, especially with the benefit of a redshirt year. He might be a flop, but if he doesn't succeed it won't be because he's limited physically.
I agree and I think that has been overlooked today. This isn't a 5'9 170 lb guy. This is a guy who could very easily see 220 by the time he plays. If he maintains his speed, that's a tough tack to make if the Oline is giving him holes to run through. Just look at Coker for instance. Laterally, he is absolutely nothing special. Now add some speed to him. Then all of a sudden you have a monster.
I think it is great that we got him. Everyone wants to increase team spead. You always hear people saying we need SEC speed. Give the guy a chance at running back. If it does not work out, move him to receiver. Brian and everyone else are stating that Hemingway, Roundtree and our other receivers cannot get separation because of a lack of speed. Next year we will have Stonum, Hayes and maybe, Drake, if he doesn't red shirt. That will definitely increase the speed quotient of our receivers and returners.