The Miami Hurricanes come into the 2013 season with high hopes for success in the ACC ahead of them. A lot of that optimism stems from the continued growth of Duke Johnson at running back after a breakout freshman season in 2012. Head coach Al Golden and the Hurricanes’ coaches expect big things out of Johnson during his career at the U, but could Johnson reach the apex of his potential this season and bring the Heisman Trophy back to Miami?
He certainly has the talent to be a strong consideration. Last season, Johnson was one of the best freshman football players in the entire country, ranking No. 9 in total offenses, averaging 171.7 yards per game. He was dynamic threat that showed explosive talent out of the backfield both running the ball (gaining 947 yards and 10 touchdowns) and catching it out of the backfield (221 receiving yards and a touchdown). He was also a home-run threat in the return game, averaging over 33 yards per kick return and scoring a pair of touchdowns.
His role is only going to be expanded as he grows into the system at Miami. That means more touches, more yards and more highlight reel plays in his sophomore season. An early non-conference tilt against the Florida Gators at home will give Johnson a stage to jumpstart his Heisman campaign in a major way. Florida will boast one of the toughest defenses in the country in 2013, so a big game against them will put Johnson firmly into the discussion as one of the best players in college football.
But he has an uphill battle to bring him the Heisman. Only one time since 2000 has the Heisman Trophy winner not been a quarterback and that was when running back Mark Ingram won it for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2009. The voters’ bias towards quarterbacks is heavy when it comes to the Heisman and there are a lot of excellent quarterbacks looking to keep that trend going in 2013.
If Johnson were somehow able to beat out the quarterbacks this year, he would become just the third member of the Miami program to win the Heisman, joining quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde (1986) and Gino Torreta (1992). Does the talented sophomore have what it takes to bring some hardware home to South Beach in 2013?