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The Duke is Back for More

By Carlos Pineda
SouthernPigskin.com
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After leading Miami in rushing yards last year in a backup role, Duke Johnson enters the upcoming season as the starting running back on a Hurricanes' squad that was picked to win the ACC Coastal Division.

"He wants to do whatever you want him to do and he gets the guys around him to play hard and play better."
~Ex-Miami OC Jedd Fisch

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The Miami Hurricanes were all about big plays on offense in 2012.

A key aspect of the big play potential was the versatile play of running back Duke Johnson. The 5-foot-9, 194-pound back had arguably the greatest freshman season in Miami football history last year, rushing for a freshman-record 947 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In addition to his success in the backfield, Johnson racked up 2,060 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns, setting the school single-season record with 892 kick return yards. Travis Benjamin previously set the record in 2011 with 592 yards.

The Miami-native was named the ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year and overall Rookie of the Year. Johnson has been named to the Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and the Paul Horning Award (most versatile college football player) preseason watch lists.

After leading Miami in rushing yards last year in a backup role, Johnson enters the upcoming season as the starting running back on a Hurricanes' squad that was picked to win the ACC Coastal Division by members of the media at the ACC Football Kickoff this week.

How does he embrace his leadership role on the team?

"Just do whatever it takes," Johnson told Southern Pigskin this spring. "I've grown in a lot of different ways. I have to make sure everybody knows what they're doing in the backfield and make sure the offense as a whole is going well and making sure we're focused."

Miami finished last year with a 7-5 record and tied for first place in the Coastal after beating Duke 52-45 to close out the season. Johnson rushed for a season best 176 yards and three touchdowns against the Blue Devils.

Whether it is as a running back, receiver or on special teams, Johnson's speed, quickness and vision have been crucial in getting the Hurricanes moving. Against Bethune-Cookman, Johnson scored four touchdowns, including a 95-yard kickoff return, two rushing scores and a 50-yard reception when the offense was struggling, to give UM a 38-10 win.

Perhaps his best individual performance came when Johnson set a school-record with 373 all-purpose yards in a devastating loss to Virginia.

According to former Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, Johnson's leadership stems from his excellent work ethic.

"He's the type of guy that you'd love to be around," said Fisch, who is entering his first season as the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator. "He wants to do whatever you want him to do and he gets the guys around him to play hard and play better.

"He's a competitor and he brings a great energy to it."

Johnson, along with senior quarterback Stephen Morris, will look to guide an explosive and experienced offense in 2013.

Carlos Pineda - Carlos Pineda is a featured writer for Southern Pigskin. He covered the UCF Knights football team for Florida Today in 2010. Carlos' work has been published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. He attended the University of Central Florida. Follow Carlos on Twitter @CarlosFPineda.