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Duke Johnson: The next elite Miami Hurricanes RB?

Duke Johnson

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the history of Miami Hurricanes football, there have been plenty of elite running backs. From Clinton Portis to Lamar Miller, the NFL pipeline is still flowing freely. The latest back earning the attention of scouts and Hurricane fans everywhere is true sophomore Duke Johnson.

Touted as the next great Miami running back, Johnson didn’t wait long to live up to his billing. During his first year with the Hurricanes, the freshman phenom broke Portis’ old record for the most rushing yards in the first season on campus. It didn’t take long for him to prove his worth as the starting running back, making a name for himself as one of the best players in the ACC along the way.

Heading into his sophomore season, Johnson will be facing high expectations to pick up where he left off in 2012. Throughout his freshman campaign, he picked up 947 rushing yards on 139 attempts (6.8 yards per carry) while striking paydirt 10 times. He formed a one-two punch with bruiser Mike James, reviving the Hurricanes’ thought-to-be-dead running game.

Even as a receiver, Johnson showed a knack for making plays and picking up yards. He recorded 27 receptions for 221 yards and one touchdown, giving quarterback Stephen Morris a reliable option out of the backfield.

The next step in his maturation as a legitimate NFL prospect will be to continue building on all of the physical tools that made him so special as a freshman. The quickness, agility and vision that he displayed in 2012 will need to shine even brighter in 2013. Assuming that’s the case, Johnson shouldn’t have any trouble keeping opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

What makes the case for Johnson all the more compelling is the Miami offensive line, which returns all five starters in 2013. With blockers like Seantrel Henderson, Malcolm Bunche and Brandon Linder paving the way, Johnson should have plenty of holes to explode through this upcoming season.

Plus, he’s got a wicked stiff arm.

If Johnson could make that type of impact as a freshman, imagine the damage he can inflict with a year of experience under his belt. The pieces are falling into place for him to develop into the next elite Miami running back.

Stay tuned.

Gil Alcaraz IV is a Content Planner/NFL Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.