Man.. We’re 8 days away.. Eight! Next Saturday the 2017 Miami Hurricanes will finally be taking the field at Hard Rock Stadium against the 1AA Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. Yes, the opponent will be pretty much a warm up for the Canes but it’ll be good to have almost like a “preseason” type of game to get the campaign started.
For the eighth-to-last installment of the “Players that wore this #” series, we’ll take a quick look back at the memories that Duke Johnson made as a Cane and also the current Cane to wear number 8, Braxton Berrios.
Duke Johnson came to Miami as a heralded recruit (ranked a 5* recruit by Rivals) out of the local Miami area (Norland High School) and didn’t disappoint right out of the gate. As a freshman he saw almost nothing but success. In his first game as a Cane, for example, Johnson rushed the ball just nine times against Boston College but went for 135 yards and 2 scores. As the Canes part time starting running back as a freshman (started 5 of 12 contests) and full time kick returner, he gobbled up yards on the ground, through the passing attack and on kickoffs to the tune of 2,060 yards in 2012. For the year he finished with 10 rushing touchdowns, one score through the air and two kick returns to the end zone. Not a bad start to a career. After the season was over Johnson received more accolades than I can list for article due to his breakout season.
In Johnson’s second year on campus he took over as the starting running back and although he had, on a per game basis, even more success than he did in his freshman season, he finished the year with far less yardage due to missing the last five games due to a gruesome ankle injury suffered against Florida State. For the year Johnson rushed for 920 yards (again, only eight games in total) and six touchdowns with another 400 yards of kick returns piled on as well. Due to his gaudy output for the shortened season he had Johnson was still awarded by ACC Coaches and Media first and second team Conference accolades.
For his third and final season as a Cane, Johnson kept up the torrid pace of production he had as a sophomore but in this go around he was able to complete the season. For the 2014 season Johnson scampered for 1,652 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns, 421 receiving yards and four more trips to the end zone. It’s worth noting as well on the rushing, he averaged 6.8 yards per carry so he wasn’t churning through tons of carries in a game, he was ripping off big gainers quite frequently.
His high water mark for the season had to be during the last game in September and all the games in October (so a five game span). In week 5 against Duke, Johnson ran for 155 yards on 25 carries. The next week against Georgia Tech he ran for an even 100 yards and improvised for 52 more receiving yards. Following GT, Johnson upped the ante against Cincinnati, he gained 162 yards on the ground. In a winning performance, this time against Virginia Tech, Johnson couldn’t be denied. He gained 249 yards on the ground in a game where the Canes couldn’t be stopped against the Hokies. Against North Carolina, Johnson ran for 177 yards and also scored three touchdowns. Lastly, to finish out October, Johnson had 130 yards and one touchdown against the Seminoles.
After such a successful junior campaign there was little doubt the Johnson would go pro. Shortly after the season ended Johnson made his announcement known to the public and it was time for the next step in his life, the NFL.
Johnson was selected with the 77th overall pick by the Cleveland Browns before the 2015 season and has had solid success in the NFL. As most of you all know, the Cleveland Browns franchise can best be described as a dumpster fire over the last decade or so or at worst be associated with a black hole. Nonetheless, Johnson has persevered and become their primary third down running back and primary pass catching specialist out of the backfield and potentially this season their slot receiver as well. Many “fantasy football pundits” actually are very high on Johnson heading into 2017 because of his playmaking ability with catching the football out of the backfield and creating space. We’ll have to see what is in store for Johnson in 2017 and where the Browns go as a franchise. Could both parties be trending up?
The current Cane to wear the number 8 jersey is senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios. Berrios has had some success as a Cane. He’s primarily played out of the slot as well as on punt return duties as a trusted decision maker on whether to call fair catches or to return the ball. To be honest, I don’t recall him ever fumbling the ball the last three years but I could be wrong (knock on wood the action continues). His pass catching stats are not really eye popping but he usually is involved in the offense. For his career at Miami he has 496 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. His high watermark for the 2016-2017 season was the bowl game last year when he compiled four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Looking ahead to next year, Berrios will probably again be penciled in at the slot receiver position and will be counted on to provide a safety blanket to the newly named starter at Quarterback, Malik Rosier. For whatever reason, Kaaya didn’t seem to utilize Berrios in the passing game the last three years, we’ll see what a change at the QB position brings to the talented and trusted young man.
What did you think of the write up? Who’s your favorite number 8 as a Cane? Leave your posts below!