As UM football continues to slog towards Chestnut Hill, we here at the 7th Floor will breakdown each position group on the team. Today we look at the running backs. You all remember the land with normally an abundance of riches? Which finally bestowed upon us a diamond to gaze at last year, only to have it leave us again empty-handed?
Lamar Miller was incredible last year, with 227 rushes for 1272 yards, 9 TDs and a 106.0 yds/gm average. The first season over 1000 rushing yds for a Hurricane running back since Willis McGahee. Finally, Miami had a workload back who was talented enough to get the majority of the carries. With killer speed to boot. Yet the shelf life of a running back is oh so short, so off he went to the NFL with two years of eligibility remaining.
So, who from this year's crop of running backs will step up to take his place?
MIKE JAMES / Senior / 5'11'' 222 lbs / Haines City, Fla.
2011 rushing stats: 72 rushes / 275 yds / 9 TD
2011 receiving stats: 9 receptions / 80 yds / 1 TD
A solid #2 behind Lamar Miller last year, James will be expected to take over the primary rushing duties this fall. He actually recorded more touchdowns than Miller, due to his coming in on goal line situations, frequently when a long Miller run would be stopped short of the end zone. So we know James has ample experience on short yardage situations, and how to be successful.
While not possessing Miller's outright speed, James is much bigger and will be counted on taking the bulk of the carries. His scrimmage stats looked superb, rushing 13 times for 137 yards and 3 TDs. The touchdowns can be a dubious number with the goal line situations, and obviously no one can get too excited over a scrimmage against a depleted defense. But the yards per rush can't be understated by any situation metric.
Health is always going to be a concern for James with his injury history. That said, Coach Golden has been praising his transformation this spring and summer into the feature back:
"We’ve been saying it all camp, he looks quicker, he looks faster. He’s always been strong; last year was a tough year for him, he was hobbled with turf toe all year. He just looks different this year. Hopefully Mike will stay healthy and give us what we thought he would be.
EDUARDO CLEMENTS / Junior / 5'9'' 192 lbs / Miami, Fla.
2011 rushing stats: 15 rushes / 82 yds / 1 TD
2011 receiving stats: 14 receptions / 163 yds / 0 TD
Clements is currently 2nd on the post scrimmage depth chart, and will be taking over James' role last year of short yardage/goal line back. If you look at his receiving stats last year, Clements can provide the incredible dynamic of the screen game or wheel routes out of the backfield. It seems he can still be somewhat hesitant on hitting the hole, but overall sounds like a good compliment to James.
"Yeah, he found it. He has a low center of gravity and has a knack for diving and getting in the end zone, so that’s good," [Coach Golden said]. "I thought Eduardo ran really well today. He made a couple of cuts. A couple of other times he could have pressed it and hit it a little bit quicker, but he’s really doing a nice job. He plays really hard.
DALLAS CRAWFORD / Senior / 5'10'' 190 lbs / Miami, Fla.
2011 rushing stats: Redshirted
2011 receiving stats: Redshirted
Crawford spent his redshirt season making the transition from DB to the backfield. Crawford was great playing both ways in high school, so his football instincts shouldn't be lacking. However, nothing against Crawford, but if we see a lot of him this year, we're probably in more trouble than expected on offense.
MAURICE HAGENS / Junior / 5'11'' 238 lbs / Riverview, Fla.
2011 rushing stats: 7 rushes / 21 yds / 0 TD
2011 receiving stats: 6 receptions / 57 yds / 0 TD
Hagens comes back as the unsung grunt of the backfield, plowing holes and smashing facemasks with opposing Mikes of the world. Not bad receiving numbers last year for a fullback, and will probably get some touches again on swing routes. OC Fisch doesn't employ a fullback in every game, as Hagens only recorded four starts last year while being the team's sole player at his position. Amid the dogs says of summer camp, Hagens has been a bright spot.
“Tremendous,’’ is how Golden described Hagens’ improvement from last season. “I just said to him [Wednesday] night in the hallway the same thing. He’s had a great camp. He’s catching the ball well out of the backfield, he’s blocking well and his mistakes are minimal.’’
The backup for Hagens is TE Sean Harvey.
DUKE JOHNSON / Freshman / 5'9'' 188 lbs / Miami, Fla.
2011 rushing stats: 207 rushes / 1957 yds / 29 TD (high school)
2011 receiving stats: 14 reception / 232 yds / 3 TD (high school)
Yes, the player you've all come here looking for we stashed at the bottom to make you read the rest first. A 5-star recruit out of Miami Norland, Johnson was rated the #1 running back in the nation and 30th best player overall. Tracy Howard and Johnson were definitely the stars of Golden's 2012 recruiting class. Currently listed #4 on the depth chart, he will primarily see time this year in the return game.
It's hard not to get excited about a raw talent such as Johnson, but we have to remember he is a true freshman, mere months removed from the de-facto prison system America passes off as high school. His pass blocking needs work, no first year player can be expected to just step in and excel, his small stature can be a hindrance. Ok, we'll stop lying to ourselves - put on your orange and green blinders Canes fans!
Coach Golden on Duke's performance in the scrimmage:
"He has been good. [Running backs coach] Terry Richardson said it best. He had no idea Duke was this serious about football. Duke is very humble but he's kind of a prankster when he's not going and he's got that smile. But man, oh man, when he crosses that line he's just one of theose guys. He works so hard and prepares. We had no idea that he was like that."
Or how about Coach Fisch:
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on freshman running back Duke Johnson: "Duke is now through three practices and has made huge plays for us. It’s fun to watch when Duke is out in space, how he can make someone miss."
OL Coach Kehoe threw his opinion in as well:
Offensive line coach Art Kehoe insisted he didn’t want to talk about Johnson’s talents.
"I want to hold back on saying how good he looks," Kehoe said. "But I swear to God he looks good, man, you know? Oh my God, he looks good.
"He’s so nifty and he has so much vision, and he’s such a little dude. I kept looking at him and going, ‘What’s the big deal about him?’ Then [I] go out and watch him. Doesn’t matter if it’s open space. He likes the closed spaces, too."
One more just to make sure you're salivating:
And because we like to pour it on here at the 7th Floor, it's time for some fast twitch action: