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UM's De'Veon Smith back practicing; game status unknown

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
De'Veon Smith

Michigan starting tailback De’Veon Smith is practicing, but his status for Saturday’s game against Northwestern remains unclear.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, making his weekly Thursday morning appearance on the “Stoney and Bill Show” on WXYT-FM (97.1), said he and his staff are continuing to keep an eye on how Smith is progressing from his injury. Smith did not travel to Maryland last Saturday for the Big Ten opener after injuring his right foot/ankle in the second half of the BYU game.

Smith appeared at the post-game news conference wearing a protective boot but said at the time he expected to be ready to play against Maryland. After the win against the Terps, Harbaugh said it was his call to keep Smith at home as a proactive measure to not aggravate and worsen the injury.

“He’s practicing, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed he’s going to stay good, be ready to play,” Harbaugh said on the “Stoney and Bill Show.” “But we’re looking at it every day.”

Tailback Drake Johnson, now almost fully recovered from a torn knee ligament suffered at the end of last season, had 99 yards of total offense and two touchdowns against Maryland. He is now listed as the backup tailback.

“Drake Johnson has got a gift,” Harbaugh said on the show. “He’s a tremendous football player. Really great to have him back out there.”

Harbaugh said quarterback Jake Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, is continuing to improve and had his best practice at Michigan on Wednesday. Michigan is 4-1, 1-0 Big Ten under Rudock’s direction, and the Wolverines are ranked No. 18.

Rudock, Michigan finding their footing together

“He’s just more confident where everybody is in the offensive scheme,” Harbaugh said. “His role keeps expanding as the timing has gotten better, his timing with receivers and backs (and) his total command of the system. He’s such a smart guy. That now is honed. He’s got the knowledge and the confidence.

“Game day, he doesn’t ever get flustered. There’s nothing that can happen or be said to him that ever gets him flustered to where he doesn’t have a tight grip of his mind. It’s been so impressive. He had his best day of practice yesterday that I’ve seen him have. He’s gotten better and better and more confident in knowing where everyone is. He’s such a bright guy that he’s able to do that. I feel great about him going into this ballgame and the rest of the season.”