Back Heisman Ready?

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Heisman Ready?

By Matthew Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Miami running back Duke Johnson rushed for more than 100 yards in four games last season; three of those four games were played in the month of November.

It has taken longer than Miami fans have wanted, but it appears that the Hurricane program is finally poised to turn the corner under the direction of Al Golden.

The Hurricanes finished atop the ACC Coastal last season, but ultimately decided to forego a trip to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte due to the NCAA’s ongoing investigation of the program.

Set to return the most starters (19) of any team in the league this fall, there is great reason for the Hurricanes to be optimistic that they will actually be able to represent the Coastal division in the ACC Championship Game this December.

In order for that to occur, the Miami coaching staff will be focusing the majority of its offseason attention on improving a defense which ranked last in the ACC in total defense last fall (486.4 yards per game).

But while there is still legitimate cause for concern for Miami’s defense, there are no such feelings of anxiety about the Hurricanes’ offense.

With 10 starters returning from what was already one of the better offenses in the ACC last season, there is little doubt that the Hurricanes will be one of the top scoring teams in the conference in 2013.

While the Hurricanes have a plethora of playmakers that are sure to make their mark this season, there is one player who is poised for a major breakout season: sophomore running back Duke Johnson.

In all actuality, Johnson already emerged onto the scene last season as a true freshman.  Playing in a backup role behind veteran Mike James, Johnson still managed to account for 14 total touchdowns, earning second-team All-ACC honors as both a running back and a return specialist. He was also named the conference’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Amazingly, Johnson accomplished all of those feats while not even being the team leader in rushing attempts for an offense which threw the football on the majority of its plays.

Knowing that he will be the focal point of the offense this upcoming fall, Johnson has taken it upon himself to ensure that he is in pristine shape when the season gets started.

“I gained eight or nine pounds in the offseason, strengthening and getting bulked up so I can resist injuries, break tackles easy and be able to last through the whole season without really having a drop like I had last season,” Johnson recently stated in a video interview with ESPN.

Though Johnson personally may have perceived to go through a drop off at the end of last season, the numbers actually indicate otherwise.

Johnson rushed for more than 100 yards in four games last season; three of those four games were played in the month of November.

Perhaps the reasoning behind Johnson’s comment was to keep himself motivated for the upcoming season. As the hype surrounding his name continues to mount, Johnson is simply focused on continuing to improve his craft and production.

“Just keep getting coached,” Johnson responded when asked by ESPN’s Heather Dinich about what he needs to do to improve upon last season’s numbers. “Keep doing what I’m supposed to do, stay focused and be in the books.”

The Hurricanes are ready to re-emerge as legitimate contenders on the national scale this fall and, if that is to occur, Duke Johnson will likely be the one leading them on their meteoric rise.

As you continue to hear names pop up as potential Heisman darkhorses for this season, be sure to keep his name in consideration.

 

Matthew Osborne - With an extensive background in both writing and high school recruiting, Matt serves as the Editor and Director of Recruiting for Southern Pigskin. Once serving as the South Region Senior Scout for a national scouting service, Matt is very familiar with the top football prospects in the south. If it is a weekend in the fall, you can rest assured that Matt is on the road watching some of the top high school and college games in the region. To keep up with all of the latest recruiting news in the south, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborneSP. You can email him at matt@southernpigskin.com.