The Miami Hurricanes have raced out to a perfect 5-0 record and are on pace to make a run at the ACC title in 2013. They’ve been able to do that thanks a balanced offense that is putting up yards and points in bunches this season. A critical piece of the offensive machine this season has been sophomore running back Duke Johnson who has emerged as one of the best running backs in the ACC this season as he paces the Canes’ fast-paced offense.
Johnson enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 as a freshman, leading the team with 947 yards rushing on 139 carries with 10 touchdowns as he split time with senior Mike James. This season, the backfield is all Johnson and he is flourishing. In five games, he has gained 572 yards on 84 carries, averaging nearly seven yards per, and scoring four touchdowns. He’s one of only two backs in the ACC averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground and he doesn’t look like he has any intention of slowing down.
His ability to churn out yardage on the ground has helped the Canes maintain an excellent balance offensively. With teams worried about the running game, Stephen Morris can hurt them over the top and it opens up the field for the Miami receivers. Maintaining that running game creates opportunities with play-action as well as providing the Canes more control over the flow of the game. While the the highlights might focus on a deep pass down the field for six points, the success of this football team rests on Johnson making those tough yards between the tackles.
If he can continue to produce at the level he is now, it will be difficult to argue against Johnson being the best back in the ACC. As he continues to grow in his collegiate career, he’ll undoubtedly move into the conversation as the best back in the country and win a Doak Walker Award. With a few lucky breaks, he might even get himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation.