The Miami Hurricanes rushing attack begins and ends with one name: Randy “Duke” Johnson (5′ 9” 200 lbs.). Anyone who saw “The Duke” play in high school at Miami Norland, particularly his amazing performance in the 2011 state championship game, knew the Canes were getting a special player. I doubt anyone could have predicted he would be this good, this fast.
As a true freshman he set Miami’s kick return record with 892 return yards. He also set Miami’s freshman rushing record with 947 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was named the ACC Rookie of the Year, and received All-American consideration.
Now, here is the kicker. He only started five games. He spent most of the season as a backup to senior Mike James who is now a rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now starting the season as the undisputed starter, Johnson could have the best season at running back for the Canes in a very long time.
Johnson has all the tools to be a great back. He has tremendous straight line speed, down and dirty toughness, ankle-breaking agility and one of the best stiff arms in the college game. He just needs to stay healthy. If he gets hurt, there isn’t much backing him up.
Next in line on the depth chart is Dallas Crawford (5′ 10” 200 lbs.), a converted cornerback who only had 23 yards on six carries all last year. Crawford, a sophomore, didn’t even play running back in high school. There is no doubt he is a solid athlete, but can he put up with every-down punishment if Johnson is injured?
Senior Eduardo Clements (5′ 9” 190 lbs.), the emotional leader of the entire Hurricanes football team, was supposed to have been the back up to James last season, but suffered an upper extremity injury and missed most of the season. That injury doesn’t appear to have improved much as he was still wearing a neck brace as spring practice began. It remains to be seen if Clements can get healthy enough to contribute.
Blocking for Johnson will be senior Maurice Hagens (5′ 11” 250 lbs.). Hagens isn’t flashy. He is an old-school lug with a thirst for blasting linebackers. It isn’t pretty, but it is effective. Hagens has little competition on the depth chart, but offensive coordinator James Coley prefers single-back sets, so his playing time might be curtailed.
Overall, the sun rises and sets with Randy Johnson at the running back spot. If he can stay healthy and avoid a sophomore slump, he should have a fantastic year. If not, senior quarterback needs to get his throwing arm nice and warmed up.