University of Miami running back Duke Johnson has officially declared for the 2015 NFL Draft. Many close to Johnson, including his mother, believed he would forgo his final year of eligibility, but the decision was further solidified after the junior sustained an apparent ankle injury during the team’s Independence Bowl loss to South Carolina. Though Johnson appeared to be alright, the injury just goes to show that running backs are only able to put so many miles on their bodies and risk serious injury every single play. This simple fact made the decision rather easy for Johnson, as he will leave behind a strong legacy for future Hurricanes to live up to.
In a program rich with running back tradition, Johnson set the all-time mark for rushing yards, accumulating 3,519 yards through three seasons. A year ago, Johnson missed the final five games of the season with a broken right ankle, but rebounded to run for 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns, to go along with 38 receptions for 421 yards. Johnson has displayed the entire package to potential NFL suitors, and his versatility will make him a valuable asset to future teams.
“I think looking at the list and the guys I’ve passed is an accomplishment in and of itself,” Johnson said in a release. “I’m very grateful to have [had] an opportunity to return kicks, catch the ball out of the backfield and run the ball where I can get up above all these great UM players who came before me.”
According to ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., Johnson is the fifth best running back, in what many consider to be a deep position in the draft, and could be selected between the second and third rounds. On the other hand, the Hurricanes finished the 2013 campaign below .500 for the first time since 2007 and must find a replacement for Johnson immediately if they hope to return to the top of the ACC.
*Section Photo credit to Joel Auerbach, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Steve Mitchell, USA Today Sports.