Duke Johnson came into this season as one of the nation's most explosive running backs. The talented junior got off to a fast start this season by running for 100 yards against Louisville on 20 carries. He then had just 23 total carries over the next two weeks against Florida A&M and Arkansas State.
Johnson became a much bigger part of the passing game starting with the Nebraska game. In addition to running for 93 yards and a score against the Huskers, he caught five passes for 84 yards. Since then, he's been nearly unstoppable.
155 yards against Duke. 152 yards of offense against Georgia Tech. 178 yards on just 14 touches against Cincinnati. Johnson has been on a terror in recent weeks.
While a lot of people still wonder why he isn't involved in the return game -- especially considering he's one of the nation's best at doing it -- Johnson has seen an increase in passes going his way this season. He's on pace for 321 yards receiving this season. He's on pace for 1,349 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns.
Miami's schedule is only getting tougher, as they'll face stiff defenses like Virginia Tech and Florida State in the coming weeks. Johnson's one of the hottest running backs in all of college football. This is most likely his last season as a Hurricane. Miami's coaches will need to do whatever they can to get the ball in his hands a lot down the stretch. He's their best player.
After not seeing a single carry in games against Louisville and Nebraska, freshman Joseph Yearby started getting into the mix against Duke. He went nine times for 61 yards in that game followed by 2/16 and 8/113 performances against Georgia Tech and Cincinnati, respectively. His 317 yards on the ground and 84 as a pass-catcher make him Miami's clear number two at the position. It didn't take him long to pass Gus Edwards on the depth chart. Yearby doesn't have Johnson's speed or overall ability but he's a rare talent who will only get better and can make an impact down the stretch. Don't be surprised if his role continues to increase.
Gus Edwards was expected to be Miami's short-yardage running back this season. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened. Edwards had a total of just nine carries for 11 yards in games against Louisville, Nebraska, and Duke. He didn't see the ball at all against Georgia Tech but got back on track a little against Cincinnati. Most of his 166 yards rushing this season have come against the three worst defenses Miami has played. While Edwards has a nice combination of size and speed, he simply lacks the natural running instincts to become a legit weapon in this offense. With just one catch through seven games Edwards isn't a factor in the passing game either.
Freshman Trayone Gray has just six carries for 24 yards this season and all six carries came against the three worst defenses the Hurricanes have faced. Like Edwards, his size/speed combination is very impressive but his natural running instincts aren't near the level of Johnson and Yearby. Gray probably has a bit more upside at the position than Edwards but don't be surprised if he's playing another position (likely wide receiver or perhaps outside linebacker) next season once the talented Class of 2015 group arrives.
The fullback position has been non-existent for the Hurricanes this season. Starter Walter Tucker and backup Ronald Regula have combined for two touches through seven games. Tucker has spent time at linebacker and Regula is now expected to miss a lot of time with an injury. It's clear the fullback doesn't have a role in James Coley's offense.