Ann Arbor – Michigan's running game is taking shape, with Drake Johnson moving up the depth chart after his performance in the Big Ten opener.
With starter De'Veon Smith out with a right foot / ankle injury, Johnson emerged against Maryland. Ty Isaac got the start, but fumbled twice, losing one. Johnson, who said last Saturday that he's close to 100-percent recovered from his torn knee ligament suffered at the end of last season, came through in a big way.
Johnson finished with 68 yards rushing and a touchdown and also scored off a screen, going 31 yards for the TD.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday said Smith and cornerback Channing Stribling, who also missed the Maryland game with an injury, will return "in some form or fashion" to practice later Monday, and their progress will be observed through the week.
Harbaugh, who wanted Johnson to ease back into game form, said he feels comfortable with Johnson as the lead back. Johnson is now listed behind Smith on the depth chart, with Isaac and Derrick Green listed together at third string.
"That was weeks ago we were talking about the glide theory of coming down the runway and taking off," Harbaugh said, referring to Johnson easing back into game speed. "He's up and going. Really impressed the way he accelerates into a tackler, the way he can drop his shoulders, feed that shoulder pad to the defender, it's really impressive. I would think you'd want to tackle maybe him a couple times a game, but not too many more after that. He does a great job of accelerating through and to contact in a way that is explosive. I'm really impressed by that."
As for Isaac, Harbaugh said maybe he will show him the clip from the movie "Rocky Balboa" when Rocky tells his son that "nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
"It wasn't a good day (for Isaac)," Harbaugh said. "Sometimes life hits back. Go to Rocky. Go to the speech of Rocky to his son, 'Life's gonna hit back, it's gonna knock you down, nothing hits like life,' I know I'm paraphrasing here. 'How many hits can you take and keep coming back.' Pull out that clip. Sylvester Stallone did it well."