University of Miami Running Back Duke Johnson Heisman Sleeper

By Curt Popejoy
Duke Johnson
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest surprises of the 2012 college football season for University of Miami football fans was freshman running back Duke Johnson. As a freshman, Johnson burst onto the scene for the Hurricanes and ended up the team’s leading rusher in 2012 with 957 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also chipped in 222 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, 892 yards on kick returns and two special teams scores. Topping 2,000 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns is good for any player, but a freshman who was sharing carries with another back makes it even more impressive. What should Hurricanes fans expect in 2013?

This offense may very well be the Duke Johnson show week after week. The Hurricanes offensive line should be better this year, and so that can only add to what Johnson would be able to accomplish. You figure in that fellow running back Mike James actually had more carries than Johnson (157 to 149) and it’s easy to see that with 6.9 yards per carry average, if he can get something closer to 200-220 carries, he could end up with a huge statistical season.

Johnson is a really fun player to watch. He’s a little short at only 5-9, but he’s a thick 190lbs. What makes Johnson stand out when you watch him play is his ability to change direction and lateral quickness. His ability to avoid tacklers with his lateral movement while not losing any speed is impressive. There were games last year where it just seemed like he was playing at an entirely different speed than the defense. The Hurricanes are going to count heavily on Johnson this year and with their schedule he could be on everyone’s national radar very quickly. If you didn’t get a chance to see Johnson play last year, you are in for a real treat in 2013.

If I were to make a prediction, I say Johnson will finish the year with something just north of 1,500 yards rushing, adds in 400 yards receiving, but his return yards dip as he takes a more full time role on offense. I’ll also give him 18 total touchdowns on the season. Going to be a big year for Johnson, and with that a big year for the Hurricanes.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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