Leaving: Miami is losing the most productive running back it's ever had. Duke Johnson finished an incredible career with a strong junior season in 2014. He had 1,652 yards rushing along with 10 touchdowns. He was also a major pass-catching weapon, and finished his junior season with 38 receptions for 421 yards and three touchdowns. He'll be one of the first running backs taken in April's NFL Draft. Johnson was the total package on the field and the total package off it. His ability and leadership will be sorely missed by Miami in 2015.
Coming Back: The Hurricanes bring back three running backs and one fullback from their 2014 roster. The most talented of the group, and the one that most closely resembles Johnson, is rising sophomore Joseph Yearby. A former five-star recruit out of Miami Central High, Yearby finished his freshman season with 509 yards and one touchdown. He also caught eight passes for 118 yards and a score. While he doesn't have Johnson's explosive speed, Yearby has very good vision, balance, and running instincts. He will enter spring as the main man in the backfield. Rising junior Gus Edwards hopes to carve out a short-yardage role in 2015. He finished the 2014 season with 349 yards and six scores, and also caught two passes for 44 yards. He lacks the vision, speed, and pass-catching skills to be an every down back but he's fully capable of becoming a quality short-yardage back. Trayone Gray is an explosive rising sophomore who had 24 yards and one score as a true freshman in 2014. He played mostly quarterback in high school so it was a transition year for him. He has an impressive combination of size and speed, however. Walter Tucker will continue his role as the team's little-used fullback and also play a big role on special teams.
Incoming: The Hurricanes had four running back commitments for the Class of 2015 at one point. They stopped recruiting one and two others ended up signing with other schools. The one they landed is a really good one, though. At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Mark Walton helped lead Booker T. Washington High to a state championship in 2014. He's a tremendously talented running back who is also a very good pass-catcher. He's talented enough to possibly become the main guy in this backfield in 2015.
What to expect in 2015: Yearby is the most likely of the returning guys to become the primary back. He lacks top end speed but brings a lot to the table. UM is hoping Edwards becomes a legit short-yardage back for them. Gray has the upside and just has to continue learning and developing. Keep an eye on Walton, who could end up being the best of the bunch before the 2015 season is over. Either way, the Canes will have a couple elite talents, a big back capable of being a very good short-yardage guy, and another player with loads of upside.