Harbaugh: RB Drake Johnson might play Saturday

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Drake Johnson had one carry against Oregon State, but could see a larger role Saturday against UNLV.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, making his regular appearance Thursday morning on 97.1’s “The Stoney and Bill Show,” said the run game might get a boost from Drake Johnson in the home opener Saturday.

Johnson suffered his second career torn knee ligament in the final game last season. He was in uniform and wearing a brace on his left knee last week at the Wolverines’ season opener against Utah but did not play.

“There’s a possibility he could see action as early as this week,” Harbaugh said on the show.

Michigan had 76 yards rushing last week at Utah, including 47 from lead back De’Veon Smith. Johnson gave the Wolverines a boost later in the season last fall and finished with 361 yards on 60 carries and four touchdowns.

Harbaugh also touched on his rationale for bringing back the helmet stickers this year. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr discontinued the sticker tradition in 1995, his first season as head coach.

“I’ve always felt you should try to get the best grades, win the most awards and excel at sports,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “It’s an award, so try to win the most awards.”

Michigan 'D' looks to get aggressive

When Michigan takes the field at Michigan Stadium on Saturday against Oregon State, it will mark Harbaugh’s first time at home as head coach of his alma mater. Harbaugh has not shared much this week regarding what he anticipates his emotions might be when he enters the stadium as coach, but he was asked on the show if he will touch the M Go Blue banner the players touch at midfield as they run to their sideline.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Harbaugh said. “I always look at it as far as how I feel or what my mood is or what my emotions are, as dictated by the players. (As a coach) you don’t block or tackle anybody. You stand on the sideline and give advice. Things are always centered around making sure the players are in a position to have success, what they’re doing. Those are things I focus on.

“It’s not that important, really, in the grand scheme of things. How I’m feeling is not that important.”

Here are other highlights from Harbaugh’s radio-show conversation:

On whether starting quarterback Jake Rudock is OK with criticism: “Jake’s got a thick skin. He understands competition, he understands playing the position. It’s not his first time playing in a major college football game. I think he understands … (and is) mainly concerned about what his teammates and his coaches are saying. The scribes, pundits, so-called experts, that’s irrelevant as it relates to our team.”

On players talking about the group film study and being called out: “Called out, I don’t them recall them using those words. It’s what you do when you teach, you tell them what they did right, you tell them what they did wrong. That’s coaching and teaching I’ve been involved in. Tell somebody how to do it, what to do and then they do it. Film study is what you did right, here’s what you can improve on.”

On defensive back Jabrill Peppers’ play in the opener: “He did a good job. He played the most amount of snaps, had the most work in the game, the most contribution from amount of plays, both his contribution on defense and special teams. He had a fine kickoff return and fielded the ball well as the punt returner. Tackled, had presence in the secondary, and that will be our goal this week, to tackle even better and see if we can’t get our hands on some balls. We’ll be looking to be more handsy in the secondary and create turnovers of our own.”

On if backup quarterback Shane Morris could play if Michigan has a big lead against Oregon State: “Yeah, there’s possibilities for everything. I think this will be a very competitive football game. Crystal ball, you could bring up any scenario and say what could or couldn’t happen. Anything’s possible.”