NGSC Sports

Why Duke Johnson Is a Dark Horse Heisman Candidate

Stock up on solo cups, get your head to toe matching gear ready – college football season is upon us.  Even before the paint on the field has dried, you will probably begin to hear possible Heisman Trophy candidates. You will assuredly hear the obvious names like Jameis Winston, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley and yes, it is possible one of those players could win the award. There’s another player who could surprise fans and win the 2014 Heisman Trophy and his name is Duke Johnson, running back of Miami Hurricanes.

In 2013, Johnson appeared to be on his way to becoming a Heisman candidate before heartbreak struck. During Miami’s game against the Florida State Seminoles, Johnson broke his ankle and he missed the rest of the season. In eight games, Johnson rushed for 920 yards and scored six touchdowns.

Prior to Johnson’s injury, the Hurricanes were 7-0 and were only down 21-14 against the eventual National Champion Seminoles. After his injury, the Seminoles went on a 20-0 run to win the game 41-14. The Hurricanes would end the 2013 season with a 2-4 record after Johnson’s injury, which included a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

So far in Hurricanes camp, Johnson has looked like the All-ACC player that he was just a season ago. During the ACC Media Day last month, Johnson said he has gained about 20 pounds to increase his durability and workload.

In his two years in Coral Gables, Johnson has yet to have a 1,000-yard season. He has rushed for 1,867 yards and 16 TDs in two seasons. If Johnson stays healthy, not only will he eclipse 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, but he will become a Heisman Trophy candidate.

If rushing yards alone isn’t enough to garnish votes – Johnson is sure to dazzle in special teams. Last season, he returned 14 kicks for 396 yards and averaged a not-so-average 174.1 all-purpose yards per game. In 2012, Johnson set the Hurricanes single-season record in kick return yardage with 892 and he also added in two touchdowns.

Just in case voters still aren’t paying mind to this 211-pound yard gaining machine, Johnson additionally make plays as a running back and as a returner.  He is also dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield. He has 31 catches in his career and last season he averaged 19.3 yards per reception.

Johnson will certainly have his opportunities to have that special Heisman signature moment that players need in order to win the awards. The Liberty City native has a career per-carry average of 6.6 yards, and he has had nine runs of 40-plus yards, 12 of 30-plus yards and 17 of 20-plus yards in his two seasons.

With well-traveled senior Jake Heaps and true freshman Brad Kaaya competing for Miami’s starting quarterback job, expect Johnson to be a focal point in the team’s offense.

It is a long shot, but Johnson certainly has a shot to become third Hurricanes player (Vinny Testaverde and Geno Torretta) to win the Heisman. If Miami can win the ACC Coastal Division and challenge Florida State for the conference championship, Johnson will certainly be a Heisman candidate in 2014.


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