Duke Johnson: Just How Good Is the Hurricanes' True Freshman?

David MayerCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: Duke Johnson #8 of the Miami Hurricanes runs with the ball against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats on September 15, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Hurricanes defeated the Wildcats 38-10. Johnson scored four touchdowns during the game. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

There have been great running backs at Miami—Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, etc.—but none of them had the instant impact that true freshman Duke Johnson is having.

I understand that his career has just started but when is the last time a Hurricane was ranked No. 2 in the country in all-purpose yards? When is the last time that you saw a Hurricane be just as dangerous as a kick returner as he was a running back?

Lamar Miller might fit the bill for some of you, but he never really got any starts until his was a sophomore. Miller red-shirted his freshman year, got limited action in his freshman season and finally started in his sophomore campaign.

The only player I can remember that had such a great start to a true freshman season was Frank Gore, who averaged 9.1 yards per carry, but was not a kick or punt returner.

Duke, on the other hand, is getting a good amount of playing time as just an 18-year-old true freshman—and dominating every time he touches the ball.

Want proof? Here are his staggering numbers.

Duke is second in the nation in touchdowns scored with six, second in all-purpose yards with 212 yards per game, and 11th in the country in kick-off return average at 33.89 yards per return.

He has only ran the ball 27 times but already has 248 yards on the ground—yes, that's 9.2 yards per carry.

In addition to those numbers, Duke has also been named ACC Rookie of the Week, two out of the first three weeks of the season.


His numbers aren't the only impressive aspect of his game; his size is another. You see, Duke only stands 5'9" and weighs in at 190 pounds, yet finishes runs like he is 225 pounds.

Speed and quickness aren't his only weapons; he is very strong for having such a small frame—ask the Boston College linebacker and two cornerbacks that tried to stuff Duke on a short-yardage play in the first game of the season.

Now don't get me wrong, Duke has struggled at times. He dropped three wide open passes in the game against Kansas State, but remember, he's just 18-years-old and he's going to make mistakes.

So really, how good is Duke?

Only time will tell, but in just the three games he has played at Miami, I have never seen another true freshman make it look so easy, and with all the great running backs that came before him, that alone is pretty amazing.