You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

How Drake Johnson's commitment affects Michigan football team's recruiting, courtship of Bri'onte Dunn

By Kyle Meinke


Pioneer's Drake Johnson, who committed to Michigan on Tuesday, has racked up 2,757 yards rushing this year.

Angela J. Cesere |

Related story: Playing for Michigan a dream come true for Ann Arbor native Drake Johnson

Two questions started to percolate following the verbal commitment of Pioneer High School tailback Drake Johnson to the Michigan football program:

First, why are the Wolverines offering a scholarship to a two-star running back whose only other offer was from Eastern Michigan? Also, does the commitment spoil their courtship of five-star running back Bri'onte Dunn?

According to one expert, there's no reason to worry on either account.

Johnson is a 6-foot-1, 215-pound back who stars at nearby Pioneer High School. He's racked up 2,757 yards rushing this year -- which is closing in on the state's single-season rushing record -- and scored 38 touchdowns (one of which was a reception).


Drake Johnson, a two-time defending Michigan state champion in the 110-meter hurdles, was overlooked in the football recruiting world when he opted to compete at elite track meets. file photo

Impressive numbers, but all Division I prospects post them. The best way to gauge a recruit, then, is by his offer sheet. And Johnson, who boasted only Eastern Michigan until Michigan offered this morning, is suspect there.

But it's not due to his performance, according to Scout national recruiting analyst Allen Trieu, whose expertise is in the Midwest.

Trieu said Johnson got a late start in the recruiting process. He did not go to a single recruiting camp -- where many kids garner interest and scholarships -- last year, and only one this year. Basically, he did not play the game recruits do these days to get noticed, participating in elite track competitions instead.

"I don’t think he grabbed the bull by the horns, as far as helping himself get recruited," Trieu said. "All the other stuff the kids do these days to pick up offers, he didn’t do it.

"He’s one of those kids who just sort of just started to figure out the recruiting process (this year) and just decided he wanted to take this thing seriously. Had he done all that last season, he’d probably have a handful more offers."

Trieu said Johnson was beginning to pick up interest from other schools. He took a visit last week to Toledo, and there was heavy interest at Iowa and Syracuse.

Part of that is because of Johnson's dedication in the weight room, where he transformed himself into more than just a speedster (he's the two-time defending Division 1 state champion in the 110-meter hurdles).

Also, Johnson underwent a change in offenses at Pioneer, going from the spread last year to more of a pro-style look this year that depended heavily upon his legs. He rushed more than 30 times in seven of Pioneer's 11 games this season.

That helps to explain the timing of the Michigan offer, as it is making the same transformation.

"I think it’s just a case of a kid (Johnson) across the street that is putting up outstanding numbers, has world-class ability on the track, and it’s kind of hard to pass up a kid like that when he’s 300 yards from you," Trieu said.

Now, how does it affect the rest of Michigan's celebrated recruiting class? And, more specifically, the courtship of Dunn, a five-star recruit who has taken multiple visits to Ann Arbor despite being verbally committed to Ohio State?

The Wolverines now have 24 commitments for a 2012 haul that ranks among the top five according to every major recruiting service. There are expected to be about four spots remaining in the class after a series of departures this fall.

Johnson is the first running back to verbally commit for 2012, so there still is room for another. Additionally, Johnson is a shiftier runner who excels in space and is terrific in the passing game. He could be used at slot receiver or in the kick return game, Trieu said.

Dunn, on the other hand, is more of a bruising type.

"Dunn is your classic pounder," Trieu said. "I think they’ll be used differently, so there’s room for both in the class. I don’t think they will butt heads in that regard, because they’re both very different."

So, because there isn't much overlap in running styles, Trieu said Dunn "won't be affected at all" by Johnson's commitment, and that he's still showing strong interest in the Wolverines.

Trieu said the biggest effect Johnson's commitment has on this class is Michigan likely no longer has room for another offensive tackle. The Wolverines have verbals from five offensive line recruits, but their current lack of depth up front was thought to require another commitment.

However, another pledge, Ohio tight end A.J. Williams, could be converted to tackle, Trieu said. Williams, a three-star recruit according to Scout, is 6-foot-6, 260 pounds.

Michigan has another tight end already committed in Farmington Hills Harrison standout Devin Funchess.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

We'll see, but I feel that Drake Johnson shows a lot of commitment and love for the sports he's pursued so far. As others point out: you can't find a much tougher form of track competition than the hurdles. Johnson's work ethic and the fact that he bangs through 30 carries per game says a lot about is grit. I'm more excited about this kind of player than I am about one who has tons of "talent" but never seems to think beyond their own star potential, picking and choosing their "paths to glory." (Which always reminds me of the comparisons between Payton Manning and Charles Woodson in the '97 Heisman competition. - Go Woodson!) I'm also glad that's sports writers are placing a little emphasis on the Drake Johnson story: it's Ann Arbor and U of M all the way to feature one of our own. This is Michigan and this is Ann Arbor!


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

@Matt: I disagree that we don't have a good shot with Dunn. Michigan has been recruiting him hard and his cousin Dymonte Thomas has already committed for the 2013 class. Dunn is scheduled to visit for the OSU game, so he's clearly still interested in Michigan despite his Twitter page. Johnson is an intriguing prospect. I can also see him being a great kick returner - something Michigan really needs badly. None of the guys we've used this year have done that well. And Stonum (assuming he comes back next year) will only be here one year. It's also good to see that Johnson can take a ton of carries every game. So, he seems to be durable. Of course playing at the college level is a whole different thing. I hope he does very well though.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 8:47 a.m.

I went back and watched all the film on Drake Johnson, because I couldn't understand how a kid who is going to break the state rushing record is a 2 star. I'm still at a loss. The kid is tremendous. Great cuts. Size. Power, Balance, Speed, North South in a hurry. My respect for the rating companies (rivals, Scout, etc. just dropped).


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 8:03 a.m.

If a guy is 215 lbs, a track star, scores 38 touchdowns, and can run 3000 yards and break the state rushing record- the stars are pretty meaningless. The article is very informative. I didn't realize that players got the stars by marketing themselves at camps and such. The fact he hasn't tried to play a marketing game as a kid tells me he's more rather than less valuable to Michigan. He's 5 star in my book. Go Blue.

1st Down

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:45 a.m.

The way our OL has been poorly run blocking vs. decent defenses this year... that needs to be a number 1 priority regardless of whom is carrying the football next year.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

Our 2012 OL recruiting class is ranked #1 by rivals.As of right now our overall class is ranked #2 in the country.Hopefully some of the freshmen talent will be able to see the field next year.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

Played for Ann Arbor Pioneer? This kid's grown up right across the street from the Big House, played Jr. Wolverines since he was little...although I wasn't good enough to play at Michigan, it's the same background as all of my old pals and I from A2 who grew up breathing Michigan football from birth. This kid, like he says, is in his dream situation and he will give 100% to play for the school that he already loves. Great pickup for UM, and great to see some Pi Hi guys (Heininger as well) getting their due from the Wolverines.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 10 p.m.

This is a good get. Drake Johnson might be a Mike Hart type running back who is capable of seeing the playing field. SInce his track specialty is the hurdles, tells me that Drake is not only very fast but nimble. He will be in the mix Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls, who will have more playing time in 2012. I have no problem with a 2 star. It sounds like he's underrated.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 8:51 a.m.

He's a lot bigger and a lot faster than Hart. watch his highlights. He seems a lot more impressive on film than even justice hays- who was ranked as a top 100 recruit. This guy ranks as only the 133rd best RB in the country- crazy.

Matt Patercsak

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

Bri'onte Dunn's Twitter profile picture is him at a Buckeye game, in the horseshoe, fully clad in Scarlet and gray apparel. I don't think he's coming to Michigan. the only way to get him to come here would be to convince him that Braxton miller (like denard) decreases the function and efficiency of a feature back. which is what he would become if he came to Michigan. lets not forget folks, we have Thomas Rawls who is a beast. And we have Justice Hayes who was a 5 star recruit. This kid adds a little blue collar heart to the depth chart. and hes no slouch, nationally ranked for hurdles? that is impressive. and he has a big frame that Wellman can surely pack some muscle on to. 2012 backfield tailbacks: Toussaint, Rawls, Cox, Hayes, Johnson. Fullbacks: Hopkins, Kerridge, Houma utility: Smith that is very very solid. sure, Dunn would be nice, but the likelihood of him committing to Michigan is slim.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

With precious few open spots still left for 2012, the coaches must have spotted something special in this kid. At a minimum, given his accomplishments in track he must have good speed. Good for Drake, and good for UM for giving him a shot. GO BLUE!!!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

I have seen both play (and seen Drake run track). Drake is good. Bri'onte is a monster and will likely be a Beany Wells type guy. Sorry to burt a blue bubble, but the Canton boy is not coming to Ann Arbor. I think you'll have to settl for his cousin who is going to be a very good DB. I wish all the success to Drake - see you at the track (hopefully 2 wins next Spring).


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

I agree. This is just a ploy by Dunn to leverage more free cars and tatoos from tosu


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

A great athlete fit to be molded by a great coach. He could be an unexpected star. Worst-case scenario, he adds some depth. Sounds good to me.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

the number of stars means little...........there have been many 5 star high school players who never played a down. Players acquire stars by PAYING to go to camps - kinda like "buying" stars. The number of offers means little...........Mike Hart had 2 offers (Michigan and Syracuse - who only offered him after Michigan did). Johnson was winning national track titles while the "5 stars" were buying their stars at camps. Go show 'em Drake - GO BLUE!


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

Unbelievable. You get stars by paying to go to camps. Is their anything that isn't about money and the payoff these days? I'm liking Drake more and more.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

Let's not imagine that star ratings are totally bought and sold to whoever wants them regardless of their talent. Drake Johnson is a 2 star RB, it is what it is. Stars are important and when you get into the 2 star level, talent really drops off. Mike Hart was a great talent at Michigan, but obviously he was what he was since he's decided to coach instead of be the 3rd or 4th back on the Colts. I agree with you offers aren't a huge deal. I think Drake Johnson wanted to play locally all along.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

True dat!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

I don't care what competition level you're at, almost 3,000 yds rushing is ultra-impressive. Pioneer does play some decent competition and the fact that he's 2 time 110 hurdle champ just tells you he's a supreme athlete. Seems like some people would want to downgrade this guy because he's right in U-M's backyard, however I'm glad we got him and I bet he turns out to be a gem, sounds like he's got good size and GREAT speed. Also, I don't think Hoke would've offered if he didn't see with his own eyes while scouting him at Pioneer Games. I'm gonna trust the coach on this one. Welcome to U-M Drake, good luck to you and Go Blue!!!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

They committed to the 2 star because brionte isn't going to Mich. He made a verbal over a year ago.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Hoke is not convinced about Kalis either. That is why he is still looking to sign another offensive tackle.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

I have heard from many people that are not convinced Kyle kalis will sign a letterof intent with Mich


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:06 a.m.

I don't see Dunn committing either. Michigan's backfield is fine. Now about those WR's and a new QB...


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

So that means he will not go to UM if he will not go to a NCAA sanctioned school. How soon we forget.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Kyle Kalis made a verbal commit to ohio a year ago. Guess what? He's a Wolverine! Brionte Dunn will not attend osu as he won't go to a school that'll be NCAA sanctioned..


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

Johnson and Dunn arrive on campus in Fall 2012...... Winter of 2014 Dunn and Johnson win the first co-heisman trophy in the history of the NCAA. The following predictions are provided for you compliments of the MEANgoblue-Bo -George -Patten- crystal ball!!


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:43 a.m.

Call me crazy, but after you watch him play soon you'll notice he's not really physical and his running style is more speed and finesse than power. You're right, his measurements are on par with the other running backs outside of Hopkins if that makes you feel better. When I stood with him, he didn't seem very big.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

UselysSwrong: His problem is size? At 6'1" & 215 lbs, he's a monster compared to the current stable of UM backs. And with a quality weight training regimen, he'll get even bigger. Besides, you can't teach speed and this kid has it.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Drake Johnson is a great athlete, every time I saw him play at Pioneer he was by far the most athletic and talented player on either team. The problem with him is his size, he's not really a big guy at all and I've met him in person. Bri'Onte Dunn sounds like a beast and a big back, hopefully we get him.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Drake Johnson is the real deal and will likely never be the main back at Michigan, but he's there for depth and is one of the last additions for this recruiting class which had few offensive players anyway outside of O-Line and TE's. Sure Drake Johnson isn't a national mega talent but it's not like we're going to be depending on him as our starter. He's been great locally, will be a local favorite, and will probably transition into college very easily. Adding a guy like Drake Johnson in the mix will likely be good for the locker room, since he's familiar with the area and can be a real team guy for a program like Michigan that brings in talent from all over. I know Michigan fans have been craving for Michigan to bring in top talent to compete with the so-called mega talent laden teams of college football, but don't be afraid that Michigan adds a 2-star RB recruit. Stars aren't everything, that's not the Michigan way. The last Pioneer running back I can recall that made it to a D1 school was Richard Franklin at EMU and Drake Johnson is much better and was able to make it to Michigan.