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Duke Johnson: ankle pain only when he overdoes it, on Blue & Figueroa's rape case: "I was disgusted;'' and on Al Golden's Penn State saga.

Greensboro, N.C. -- Had a quick chat this morning with running back Duke Johnson of the Miami Hurricanes. He looks great and seemed happy to be here at the Grandover Resort for the 2014 ACC Football Kickoff.

We'll get Duke in-depth, as well as Canes linebacker Denzel Perryman, late this afternoon. Their interviews end at 5 p.m.

 Johnson, listed as 5-9 and 206 pounds, looks rock-solid (and you can only imagine how that also pertains to Perryman, a man who prides himself on his physique and strength) and ready to go. Johnson already is on the Watch Lists for the Doak Walker Award (I'm a voter, by the way), Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

 Duke rushed for 920 yards and six touchdowns in eight games before breaking his right ankle Nov. 2 at Florida State. He averaged 174.1 all-purpose yards. The year before he finished with 947 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games. Think he's itching to reach 1,000?

 Regarding his ankle, here's what he told me: "I'm 100 percent. I barely feel it. I feel good.''

 When asked when, if ever, he feels pain on it, he said, "Sometimes I feel pain when I'm doing too much and have a long day -- when I do more than one workout. When I do overtime, when I go the extra mile after practice. It's just pain, just tightness. Not really sharp pain, more like tightness of the ankle. You get off of it, ice it, heat it and stretch it out.

 "I used to sprain both my ankles, little sprains here and there.''

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Johnson was adamant about former teammates JaWand Blue and Alexander Figueroa, both linebackers arrested and charged with sexual battery July 8 after admitting to Coral Gables police they got a 17-year-old new UM student intoxicated and raped her on campus.

Johnson's reaction: "I was disgusted. Yeah, they’re my teammates and yeah they were my teammates and we hung out and talked. But there’s a certain line you don’t cross and there are certain things you don’t do and when you do I become the enemy. I become the guy that just can’t associate with you.

"When the story came out I was more wanting to reach out to the girl and her family and make sure she was OK. Because that’s a family that just sent their daughter to college and that’s a fear of all families when they send their daughters to school. It hit homes with me because I have a goddaughter, I have a sister -- Autumn is 2. No matter how close you are with someone that’s not something that should ever be acceptable.

"I have not talked to them. I think the AD [Blake James] and Coach Golden made the right decision [to dismiss them permanently from team] but at the same time that was over their heads anyway. Once you get into the laws’ hands, there’s nothing they could do anyway. I feel like at the end of the day they would be off the team regardless."

Though there was a team meeting after the rape charges, Johnson said the team met with coaches. He was asked if UM conducts any seminars or lifeskill classes preparing them for social situations that could arise in college and how to cope.

"No,'' he said. "My mother taught me. It’s just something you learn growing up."

Does he  think the players should be given any type of education on that?

"No. Everybody is not like that. It was just a couple of kids. I don’t think there are that many guys who need a class for it. I think when older guys start drinking, they're able to handle it on their own and they understand the law. They know what’s right and what’s wrong."

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 Duke on Al Golden's situation with Penn State and what it would have been like for the team if he left to become the coach there:

"It’s hard to say now what it would have been like, but obviously we would have had to move on and take the next step. We were on break at the time and just enjoyed our break, took our time off and hung out and relaxed. We weren’t bothered by it because if he left it was out of our control. If he stayed it was out of our control. The decision wasn’t up to us so there was nothing we could do. I think there was a time he did talk about it with us. but I didn’t even see the point. At the end of the day he had to make the best decision for his family."

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 Before the interview was ended I quickly asked Duke about new senior quarterback transfer Jake Heaps.

 "He's a smart quarterback,'' Johnson said. "I like him. He's a bit undersized but he makes up for it with his smart decisions and quick release. He's an older guy so he can read coverages well. He knows what to throw and when it's open.''

 But Johnson quickly added as he was whisked away for another interview: "But Jake just got into our system, so...''

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

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