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Duke Johnson on his way to becoming most prolific kickoff return man in Canes history

Thanks to his big day returning kickoffs last Saturday at Virginia, Hurricanes freshman running back Duke Johnson now ranks third nationally in kickoff return yardage with a 35.41 average.

Duke JohnsonThe Hurricanes, who ranked 71st a year ago in kickoff returns, rank eighth overall with a 28.05 average. In 2010, UM ranked 102nd (19.66 average).

So could Johnson end up breaking the single-season kickoff average in Canes' history? He might.

Johnson already owns the school record for most kickoff return yardage in a season (779). But according to the record book, Tremain Mack owns the highest average (1996, 37.71 yards per return, 14 returns for 528 yards). Devin Hester is next with a 28.72 average set in 2003. 

In terms of career kickoff return yardage, Randal Hill owns the mark with 1,169 yards. Johnson, by the way, already ranks ninth all-time in terms of yardage and is tied for the career mark in touchdown returns (2) with Ottis Anderson, Hester and Tim Morgan

This week, special teams coordinator Micheal Barrow had high praise for the kick return blocking of Allen Hurns, Mike James, Raphael Kirby, walk-on Nantambu Fentress, Maurice Hagens and Herb Waters.

"Obviously Duke, he hit it hard, found a crease," Barrow said of Johnson's 95-yard kick return for a touchdown. "But those guys laid on a barbwire for him, tried to block guys to the Gatorade cooler and gave him an opportunity to find a button to run off."

UM ranks 13th nationally in kickoff coverage defense, but it's an area UM coach Al Golden and Barrow agreed this week the team has to improve on. Of UM's 56 kickoffs this season, only six have gone for touchbacks. Of the 120 teams at the FBS level, only 14 teams have single-digit touchbacks.

"A few times we've missed a layup, had a guy inside the 20 and missed a tackle," Barrow said. "We also have to get better ball placement where scheme is setup. We went from being one of the tops in the ACC to now we kind of slipped on a banana the last few games. We have to get back to our training and what we do well, and challenge our guys to get off the milk cartons and make plays."

Said Golden: "A lot of it's personnel. We've had a lot of changes, lose Deon [Bush] and Gabe [Terry], elite cover guys in terms of speed and strength. It hurts. We've made a lot of changes there, need some guys to step up and respond - [Raphael] Kirby, guys like that. We need other guys to step up. Eduardo [Clements] is hurt, too. Eduardo was great at it. Dallas [Crawford] has stepped up. We need others to."

MORE LEFTOVERS/NOTES

> Although he's moved back behind Denzel Perryman this week at weakside linebacker, odds are sophomore Gionni Paul will be fighting with freshman Raphael Kirby to be UM's starting middle linebacker -- and not in pass coverage -- next season. Paul was beaten for the game-winning TD pass at Virginia.

"Gionni has a great knack for finding the football," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said. "He made 14 tackles [at Virginia]. He has to improve his conditioning, improve his speed and his pass defense and his knowledge of the defense. Until he does all that there's going to be some plays where not only, he but some other guys get exposed [in pass defense]. But I'd rather have a guy who can find the ball, than one who can't, and that's his strongest asset."

Barrow agrees. "He's a guy that has instincts, comes from Ray Lewis' high school. Must be something in the water up there," Barrow said. "He knows what he needs to focus on. Last year he didn't play a lot like he wanted to and we wanted him to. Through the ups and downs, he's kept fighting. I like guys like that."

> Cornerback Brandon McGee on just how country Alabama-born cornerback Ladarius Gunter is: "Allen Bailey is like Green Mile country. LG ain't that country."

> With the program mired in mediocrity and with NCAA sanctions hanging over head, one might imagine the recruiting pitch has changed. Barrow said he tells recruits when he goes out on the trail that at UM there are great opportunities to play.

"It's still an opportunity to win a championship, a great opportunity at education, for playing time," Barrow said. "We're still playing a lot of young guys. We're a top 30 university in the nation, a private school. Socially it's like a buffet here. It's a small town of Coral Gables outside a major city. There's a reason LeBron [James] went to Miami. It's a beautiful place. And with us located in Coral Gables, that's the Beverly Hills of our county."

> Receiver Phillip Dorsett bounced back from his struggles with a nice performance at Virginia. The Canes, however, will be short a couple more receivers this week with Allen Hurns banged up, Davon Johnson likely out and Rashawn Scott still suspended. The good news? South Florida ranks 102nd out of 120 FBS teams in pass efficiency defense.

"They like to play a lot of Cover 4, Cover 8, man up," Dorsett said. "They're a physical defense. Secondary can run a little bit. I know [former Monsignor Pace standout] Kayvon Webster. I went to middle school with him. It's going to be a challenge like every week."

Comments

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Dorsett will have to have the game of his life. Bring Kendal Thompkins- youre time bro'. Do something with it. Same with the walk on kid- maybe you can earn a scholie, boi.

Bring in the Tight ends, then. Time to earn that UM scholarship.

A deeper dive into Duke's stats - VERY impressive

http://statmilk.com/NCAAF/Player/869616

If this kid is used right he could end up holding return records , and rushing records at this University . Hope they dont over use him . Go Canes

The only bad thing about this is that Miami is getting the opportunity to return so many kick offs. Means that they are getting scored on a bunch.

Agree with Ga cane. Duke needs to get teh ball no more than 12-15 times a game rushing (plus a few passes and ko returns). That a lot to ask for an 18 year old over 12-14 games. To me, he will be like Frank Gore. A superstar waiting to explode. Frankie left UM early because he had 3 knee injuries while at UM. I dont fault him (unlike many others). Duke will play here at most 3 years. I say he leaves after his junior year assuming good health and continued excellent play- I see him being the featured back along with Sony Michel in 2014.

Its a shame we cant get another speedster return man, and allow Duke to concentrate on being a tail back. I guess given his smaller size, the NFL may ask him to do this as well ala Sproles, trinidin Holliday etc

He is smaller at the moment but I think he may put on 15 to 20 pounds during his time here which would make him pretty stout , and if he keeps his speed and quickness we could be looking at a future heisman candidate , assuming his career follows the path it's currently on . Go Canes

We will see canes breakout for next two games. They will blow out USF and DUKE. After loss at Virginia they get together and are bonded like brothers. Trust me. Defense will allow less than two touchdown. GO CANES

When it's all said and done, Duke may have more awards then any other player at UM.

GO CANES ALL DAY EVERY DAY

Smurf

Duke is a player. The negative is he's been worked to death and risks injury or early burnout. But that's what you gotta do when you have no depth and crappy talent all around.
Duke is the only bright spot in a mediocre team. At least he is vying for a worthwhile record. Compare that to the D on pace to be the worst D ever and to Joke-ory and his INT record pursuit. Duke is a breath of fresh air. Only thing you got. Enjoy him before you burn him out.

When Duke has the ball everything becomes Electric..
It is like a bolt of lightning coming out of a bottle..

How he sees those creases and hit those open gaps is beyond me, because in the stands you can see the coverage coming but he has the ability to juke or shift while running quickly, and as soon as he is around the coverage at the second level, he puts on the afterburners....

A pleasure to watch him play.

If he does put on weight it has to be upper body because he wants to have muscle to hold the ball but not slow his speed capacity.
I think he will be as good or if not better than Hester, and that is saying a lot about excitement on returns.

Dorsett should have two good closeout games and we should put some points up...
Duke can be had....our Defense stepping up knowing what is on the table is the key.

I'll be at Duke to watch Duke.....to me "The most entertaining College Football player in Decades".
Go 'Canes Always

The Marlins are a complete waste...can we just get rid of them and take over the stadium?

Come on Ugo. Enough with the rhetoric.

Were you born yesterday?

Does anyone here remember a dude named Devin Hester? 2004?

Coop was ok and so was TB. The latter two nothing like Duke though

I don't want to think what UM's record would be right now without Duke. It wouldn't be 5-5. I'm pretty sure about that. People that are sure USF will be an easy game make me wonder. USF's team speed will cause some problems. What games have been easy for UM this year? I can only think of one game and it wasn't V. Tech.

Canes are inconsistently good at times and have potential gamebreakers.Duke right now seems though to be the only one.Conversely............D Onofrio just has NEVER cut it with me.I know Golden wants his pal around but how about a reassignment then/demote him.He doesn t seem to have players want to play hard for him.It s an attitude the defense is just lacking.No killer instinct.No buying into D Onofrio s schemes.....whatever.Very frustrating watching the Cane defense year in and year out just sputter.

1981-2011 um 5 wrote>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Come on Ugo. Enough with the rhetoric.

Were you born yesterday?

Does anyone here remember a dude named Devin Hester? 2004?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Thanks for the endorsement 1981...yes I remember Hester but I think you will agree that this guy for a freshman is far ahead of even Hester at this stage...

If that is rhetoric to state that Duke is one of the best at returns and entertainig as Hell, then I plead guilty..
Your last sentence of your post says it all...
I close my case..
Go 'Canes Always

All the speed round this program throughout the years, and NOBODY has more that two kick return Tds?

Wow.

Duke will likely have 5 before his jr year....and he's probably a step-and-half slower than Benjamin, Miller, Hester, Hill, and several other guys.

Guess you gotta be more than fast, out there. Duke makes great decisions while running. That jump-step he used to hit it vs UVA was wicked.

Hester was the best as a "return man". Duke is an all around great athlete. But Hester was, and is still amazing. What a waste of talent for both players with Hester on an average team, and Duke on a canes team with the worstdefense in the country. SAD

Sad to say Duke is gone by JR year barring an injury.

Whether Golden and D'O play 'favorites' is a jaded way of saying that those who play are those who:

1 - listen to and respond to the coaches, regardless
2 - have the talent

Most of us have learned that to get what you want you have to follow rules that someone else laid down, be it parents, teachers, or coaches. Young teens and twenty somethings may have to learn it the hard way. I know I did. These kids were stars in high school, where they may have gotten away with more, but this is the next rung up, and you have to conform.

We've seen various players go out of favor with the new regime over their tenure and while some finally realize these lessons, others don't and they either are suspended, transfer, or try to at least. One player does not make a team at any level. Sure they can contribute or lead, but there are 70 other players to deal with out there and coaches don't have time to babysit.

If Scott's issue is disciplinary, I sure hope he learns these lessons and comes back, otherwise we'll say f'em and move on. This is D1 college football and you are on TV every week at the U. You have four years to get a damn good education here and/or make it to the NFL. Four years may seem an eternity when it is 1/5 of your life, but man, it really isn't long at all.

Shut up, go to class, and listen to the coaches. Jesus.

PS-Do I have to add that your chances at the brass ring go up exponentially when you are on TV with the Duke? This kid is going pro. Scouts and coaches will watch him and drool, and by being on the same field, you will be watched as well.

Couldn't have said it better IronVarmint...

I will I promise when the U is playing in my neck of the woods have seats in the house to see him play..
He is worth every penny.
Will see him next week at Duke and I can't wait..

Here is the thing: I was effusive about this young man because he has class, poise, talent, and a level head..Notice when he scores touchdowns the ball is given to the officials and he is gone getting ready for more action.. Little or no showboating.. For him it is all about team "NOT I I I I".
His parents did a great job raising a kid they could be very proud of...
If this is Rhetoric then 1981 etc you will hear a lot from me because I think Duke is one of the Bright spots that we as fans have looked forward to this season..
I will enjoy Duke's talent and cheer for him all the way.
Oh by the way: He wanted to be a 'Cane from he was in Junior High, and was not afraid to let others know how he felt.
As Coach G says he is a Classy young man..
Rhetoric 1981-2011 um 5 yes..........You know it..
Go Duke.
Go 'Canes Always

I hope Duke Stays health enough to make it to his Junior year.

what is that name? Iron vomit!You have a name like that, which portrays rebellion, and tell those kids to just conform. What a moron. You are a troll, and just can't stand being on your boring gay-nesville hick blog. Maybe you should learn to conform, boys should like girls, and girls like boys. Not the way your trailer people taught you.

I'm so tired of people saying we are going to blow out our last 2 opponents. NO WE ARE NOT. Our defense SUCKS. I'm sure these same people said we were gonna blow out K-state and Virginia. We needs some stud D-line recruits. You better just hope that we win. Period.smh

IT COMES DOWN TO THIS IF GOLDEN WANTS TO STAY OFF THE HOT SEAT AND TAKE THIS PROGRAM FORWARD HE MUST WIN THESE NEXT TWO GAMES. TALK ABOUT SHANNON ALL YOU WANT BUT HE NEVER LOST TO DUKE. HE LOST HIS JOB WHEN HE LOST TO USF. GOLDEN LOSES HE SHOULD BE OUT. STOP GIVING HIM A PASS JUST BECAUSE THE TEAM IS YOUNG! HELL YOU'RE GONNA BE YOUNG AGAIN NEXT YEAR. WIN THE DAMN GAMES, TAKE THE BOWL BAN AGAIN,AND GET BETTER D-LINE COACH,AND NEXT YEAR WE WIN 10 GAMES EASY. LOOK AT NEXT YEAR! FSU LOOSES MANUEL,VT MAY LOSE THOMAS, NCST LOSE THEIR QB,SO DOES GA.TECH. ND LOSES PRACTICALLY THE ENTIRE OL AND STAR LB. GET RID OF D-LINE COACH AND REPLACE HIM WITH A COACH WHO KNOWS HOW TO TEACH D-LINE HOW TO GET OFF BLOCKS AND PRESSURE THE OB. MIAMI IS NOT ALABAMA AND TEAMS ARE STARTING TO EXPLOIT THEIR DEFENSE BY THROWING DOWN THE FIELD. WHY? HOW? NO PASS RUSH! GREAT ATHLETES IN THEIR SECONDARY BUT STILL NO PASS RUSH! IMPROVE THIS AREA AND KEEP GUYS FROM TRANSFERING AND 10-11 VICTORIES EASY. CONVINCE HENDERSON,PORTER TO STAY FOR THEIR SENIOR YEARS AND IMPROVE THE RUN BLOCKING WITH A BIG BACK. ALL THESE THINGS WILL NOT HAPPEN IF WE LOSE THE NEXT TWO GAMES. WIN ONE AND LOSE ONE WON'T CUT IT EITHER. YOU WANT THE FANS BACK THEN WIN THE COASTAL FOR THESE SENIORS AND THIS TEAM.

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