Duke Johnson in spotlight as Miami opens camp - NBC Sports

Duke Johnson in spotlight as Miami opens camp
APWF
Miami's Duke Johnson speaks with reporters during the opening NCAA college football practice of the season Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Peter Andrew Bosch)
August 3, 2013, 4:46 pm

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) Duke Johnson was already wide awake at 4 a.m. Saturday.

Never mind that the wake-up call wasn't for another 2 hours, or that the Miami Hurricanes first practice of training camp was still more than 4 hours away.

"Just that ready to go," Johnson said.

Apparently, even he's eager to see what he does for an encore.

Johnson ran for 957 yards in his debut season on only 139 carries. He was the only player in college football with at least 900 rushing yards and 800 kickoff-return yards a year ago, which makes it easy to see why he was touted as one of the nation's best freshmen. And after adding eight pounds of muscle in the offseason, Johnson thinks he's well-prepared to handle a much bigger workload in 2013, when he's expected to be Miami's featured back.

"I'm excited," Johnson said. "Just ready to get out here and play some football. The whole summer we've been doing strength and conditioning. Now it's time to get down to football, and I'm ready."

It's obvious that Miami coach Al Golden will be calling Johnson's number often this season. What remains unclear is what name Golden will use when addressing his running back.

After two years of strife brought on by the still-unresolved NCAA investigation into the Hurricanes' athletic department - it is possible that the association's Committee on Infractions may announce in the next few days what penalties, if any, will be levied against Miami - the closest thing to an in-house controversy seems to be why Golden insists on calling his running back by his given name.

He calls him Randy and not Duke, the name everyone else uses.

"Am I the only one? I thought it was his mom," Golden said. "I'll call him whatever he wants to be called. We're still going to give him the ball. I don't care what you call him."

As Golden was speaking on an 86-degree morning, his players just getting settled on the team's redesigned practice fields for the first time. New wind screens surround the complex, the dark green mesh not only shielding the team from prying eyes but also serving as a tribute to the 74 former players who have been recognized as All-Americans in their college careers.

Their images, along with photos of Miami's five national championship rings and Golden's credo of "Deserve Victory" are printed on those screens. At this rate, Johnson could easily be one of the next names added to the display.

He was one of only two players in college football last season to throw for a touchdown, run for one, catch a scoring pass and run back a kickoff for a score. And he did all that while Miami monitored his number of touches, with hopes of not overexposing the 5-foot-9, 196-pound speedster.

"He's motivated to be the best," Golden said. "He's improved his conditioning. He's improved his size. Physically, he looks different. I think he's more mature. He should play with a quiet mind because he's learned everything. He's learned all the pickups. He's learned the routes. He's learned everything in the backfield.

"I think that's going to help him play faster. He's got a great toolbox already."

While others lauded Johnson for his play last season, he would often go into the video room with his own harshest critic - himself.

Almost from the moment Johnson's freshman season started, Golden and Miami players alike raved about his air of humility and how he wasn't getting swallowed up in any sort of hype that surrounded him last year, when he finished with 2,060 all-purpose yards.

Expectations for both Johnson and the Hurricanes are higher in 2013, and again, he seems unfazed. In his eyes, he's just getting started.

"First off, I had to put on more weight so I would avoid injuries and not go down midseason," Johnson said. "And my conditioning, but mainly my leadership. I just have to be more of a leader and help other guys and bring other guys along and make this team better."

NOTES: Golden said every Hurricanes player passed - and many "smashed" - the team conditioning test, one that about half the team failed at the start of camp two seasons ago. ... WR Malcolm Lewis, whose freshman season ended with a gruesome ankle dislocation at Georgia Tech last Sept. 22, said he has been fully cleared to participate and was running on the practice fields Saturday. ... Quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive lineman Shayon Green were picked team captains.

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