When you’re a five-star talent coming out of high school, you don’t really have the chance to sneak up on anybody. Miami running back Duke Johnson came in with high expectations, and delivered a tremendous season for the Hurricanes in 2012. He had perhaps the greatest freshman campaign in school history, and that’s quite an accomplishment when you consider the rich history of Miami running backs.
Johnson ran for a freshman-record 947 yards and also had ten touchdowns on the ground, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He also added two scores on kick returns. His versatility as a runner, pass catcher and return man allowed him to rack up 2,060 all-purpose yards, the second-most in program history. When all was said and done, Johnson ended up on nearly everyone’s Freshman All-American team.
Heading into the 2013 season, the one aspect of Johnson’s game that could improve is his consistency, especially in big games. In high-profile games against outstanding defenses (Notre Dame and Florida State), he failed to surpass 30 yards rushing and didn’t reach the end zone. However, he did finish the season with over 100 yards in four out of his last five games, which should provide a bit of momentum heading into this season.
This fall Johnson’s numbers should increase substantially because he shouldn’t be splitting time in the backfield, as he did with Mike James as a freshman. James is now in the NFL, leaving Johnson as the primary feature back for new offensive coordinator James Coley. Also, he’ll be lined up next to a very experienced and talented quarterback in Stephen Morris. Defenses won’t be able to crowd the line of scrimmage to slow down the electric Johnson.
If he stays healthy expect to see Johnson’s name emerge in the Heisman discussion. He’s that good.