The Miami Hurricanes have long anticipated star running back Duke Johnson's return to game action, and that day is less than two months away.
Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes the junior said he gained 15 more pounds of muscle this offseason to prepare for the physical toll of being a featured back.
With that in mind, let's set over-under lines for his 2014 campaign—not including a potential bowl game. Before we get too far, though, the following table provides a general idea of what numbers Duke compiled during his freshman and sophomore years at "The U."
Ready? Good. To the projections.
Rushing Yards: 1,488
Duke's rushing total of 1,488 yards was engineered this way: a modest 20 attempts per game at 6.2 yards per carry for 12 games—or 124 yards per outing.
He boasts a collegiate average of 6.6 yards throughout 284 career carries. Last season, Duke essentially played seven nights after missing three quarters against North Carolina and one at Florida State and reached 6.3 yards on 20.1 attempts.
Over the last two years, he registered 50-plus-yard runs against Boston College, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke, Florida Atlantic and UNC. It sounds—and is—fantastically cliche, but he really becomes a home-run threat each time he handles the football.
Long story short, the big plays add up. He averaged 115.0 yards in the eight official appearances as a sophomore, even tallying a hard-earned 97 against an elite FSU defense.
A lofty number like that is extremely reliant on the Miami offensive line, but the triumvirate of Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano and Shane McDermott forms a powerful left side.
Receiving Yards: 187
Questioning whether Duke manages to reach a target of 17-22 catches is not ridiculous, but the drop from 27 in 2012 to four last year is equally as baffling. For example, he could reach 187 yards by:
- 17 receptions, 11.0 YPC
- 22 receptions, 8.5 YPC
Offensive coordinator James Coley allowed Stephen Morris to live and die by the deep ball in 2013, but his second season at Miami should be markedly more contained.
And that's where Duke comes in. It's fair to anticipate a few more screen passes and checkdowns this season because of the delicate quarterback situation. A key to minimizing mistakes under center is quickly distributing the ball to the team's playmakers in various ways.
Granted, he has just 298 career receiving yards—not exactly a staggering number from the backfield. But Coley must utilize his superstar in this fashion, lest the 'Canes ignore adding a dangerous dimension to their offense.
Total Touchdowns: 10.5
You want a compelling argument for Duke eclipsing that mark? You want legitimate reasons the superstar cannot? You can have them both, of course!
As mentioned earlier, the junior is electrifying whenever his number is called, talented enough to slash through holes and outrun defenders to the end zone.
Even while he was a backup to Mike James, Duke still bolted his way to 10 rushing touchdowns. Add one score through the air, one on a screen pass with two kick returns, and he scored in nearly every non-defensive way possible.
On the other hand...
Dallas Crawford came in as a short-yardage bruiser last season, and that job figures to fall on Gus Edwards' broad shoulders this year. Plus, freshman Joe Yearby will "steal" a couple touchdowns from his fellow back. Remember, goal-line vulture Crawford tallied seven scores during 2013 games in which Duke was actively involved.
What's more, it is unlikely Duke returns many kicks, mostly due to the young, non-starting speedsters on the sideline. Additionally, why subject him to an unnecessary beating on a kick return? He'll take a handoff on the next play anyway.
The main factor is determining whether Duke will set up touchdowns for teammates or score them on his own.
So, what say you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Last week, Michigan unveiled its 2014 roster, and the first name listed ended months of speculation about the status of a hallowed number from the team’s storied past.
Defensive back Blake Countess is switching from No. 18 to the No. 2 jersey of Heisman Trophy winner and NFL great Charles Woodson.
The roster revelation ended conjecture that 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers, who hopes to emulate Woodson’s career at Michigan, would don the No. 2 jersey. Peppers will wear No. 5 at Michigan, the jersey number he wore for his high school career—at least for now.
Countess, a redshirt junior, is a worthy recipient of Woodson’s jersey after having racked up impressive statistics during his Michigan career, including totaling 90 tackles (56 solo) over two full seasons. He emerged as a star last season with six interceptions that he returned for 169 yards, including a touchdown. His performance earned All-Big Ten first-team honors.
Last season’s performance came after he missed the entire 2012 season after being injured in the season opener versus Alabama.
The jersey switch will increase the spotlight on Countess.
While technically not a Michigan Legends jersey, No. 2 is an obvious candidate to join the pantheon of honored Wolverine greats.
Even without the official designation, the jersey holds a special place in Michigan history because of Woodson’s status as the most recent Wolverine to win the Heisman Trophy and the first defensive player to do so. He also bears the distinction of having a stellar NFL Hall of Fame-caliber career while still being an active professional player. Woodson’s NFL resume includes Super Bowl champion (XLV), eight-time Pro Bowl selection, seven-time All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2009) and being named to the 2000s All-Decade team.
Countess now steps into the shadow of Woodson’s celebrated collegiate and pro careers.
The only jersey that comes with similar baggage is Desmond Howard’s No. 21. Howard also won the Heisman Trophy and is a frequent presence around the Michigan football program in his current role as an ESPN college football analyst.
The other Legends jerseys are associated with players in the distant past, long before televised games became standard.
Countess will also need to contend with the expectations that precede Peppers’ collegiate career. Peppers has set a goal of eclipsing Woodson’s collegiate accomplishments. But, no matter how quickly he taps his potential, the No. 2 jersey won’t be available until Countess is done with it.
Countess’ task is to create his own legacy for his new jersey number while keeping fans from looking ahead to who might wear it next.
All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department web site.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
With Tennessee coach Butch Jones' orange-hot three weeks on the recruiting trail, the Volunteers don't have many open spots remaining in their 2015 class.
Quarterback Quinten Dormady's June 9 pledge started a surge that led to seven total commits in the month. UT's "Orange Carpet Day" event kept the Vols hot, and they now have 18 commitments and rank seventh nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite.
UT secured a star running back prospect in Alvin Kamara, landed a couple of key defenders in Austin Smith and Quay Picou and lured in-state tight end commit Kyle Oliver at Orange Carpet Day festivities.
If UT signs a complete class of 25 players, that means seven spots remain.
Considering there is always attrition—come on, this is SEC recruiting!—and Jones is known for creativity with numbers (he signed 32 players last year), there could be another spot available.
So, here are eight players the Vols need to get to commit to close out the recruiting class.
Michigan's defensive coaching changes weren’t really of the major variety, but they could be enough to tilt the odds in its favor this fall.
Perhaps the most notable swap, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke relinquished his control of the D-line, leaving Mark Smith as the sole mentor for defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's front four.
Hoke, who enters his fourth year as the man in charge in Ann Arbor, said the following in April about the change, via ESPN’s Brian Bennett:
Our first message to the players this offseason was to learn from going 7-6 [in 2013] on every front you can. That’s from how you prepared to how you came in the building every day.
It’s the same thing with us as coaches. We talked a lot about us doing a better job with the fundamentals of playing the game and holding everybody to those expectations. And I think you always have to check yourself before you go anywhere else with it.
In February, Hoke addressed the same topic through a prepared statement, via MLive.com’s Nick Baumgardner:
Everyone on the staff and the kids are really excited about these changes. Greg [Mattison] and I met and felt this was the best for everyone, including him and his ability to coach a position group and run a defense from the middle.
When you look at Mark's [Smith] experience on the defensive line, then being able to split the secondary, where you have five positions and 20-plus guys, and with the way offense and passing has changed in college football, I think it balances our staff on that side of the ball.
Before this goes any further, it’s worth mentioning that Team 134’s defense wasn’t in need of an entire overhaul, just a few minor tweaks; and in all likelihood, the adjustments on Hoke’s end were to maximize Mattison’s personnel, which finished 2013 as the No. 13-ranked total defense, per NCAA.com.
Curt Mallory (Safeties)
Formerly the coach of the entire secondary, Mallory now heads the safeties, which means that he’ll have the duty of grooming incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers. But then again, guiding the 5-star phenom will be the job of everyone—he’s capable of playing several positions on both sides of the ball.
But forget Peppers for a second, because before welcoming the high-flying kid from Jersey, Mallory already had a solid set to work with: Jarrod Wilson (6’2”, 202; Jr.), Dymonte Thomas (6’2”, 191; So.), Delano Hill (6’0”, 205; So) and several others.
In 2013, the defensive backs were either on-point or off-kilter, evidenced by its No. 7 ranking among Big Ten passing defenses (230 yards). In fact, 23 of 28 touchdowns surrendered by the Wolverines were through the air. But 15 of 17 picks were by corners and safeties.
Roy Manning (Cornerbacks)
In 2013, Manning, a former Michigan letterman (2001-04), coached the outside linebackers. This year, though, he’ll be asked to dictate to the corners, who are led by two of the top cover men in the nation, Blake Countess (5’10”, 183; RS Jr.), and Raymon Taylor (5’10”, 182; Sr.), a physical, sure tackler.
This shift is interesting, to say the least. Now that he’s taking on the far-reaching members of the secondary, Manning’s stepping into relatively new territory. However, due to coaching stops in Cincinnati and Northern Illinois, the former linebacker has gained experience coaching on both sides of the ball. The fact that he’s moving to a new position shouldn’t be an issue.
Manning, who played four years in the NFL, adapts to new surroundings, which is something he discussed during a recent radio interview with WTKA-AM Ann Arbor (via Baumgardner of MLive):
Coaching is creating change, that's what coaching is. One of the most important things, I was honest and up front with those guys. It was 'I'm going into a new position, I won't have all the answers (right now), I won't say everything the way maybe they were used to in the past,' but I told them it was a growing process.
I just kept stressing 'I'm going to hammer you guys, be on you guys and be demanding.' The corner position is so much about mindset. That's why my personality marries with the position well, I think. It's literally 'game on' every single play. You can't take a play off. You can't be lackadaisical.
Greg Mattison (Linebackers)
Mattison has been orchestrating college defenses for more than 15 years—he also spent two years with the Baltimore Ravens. His professional pedigree is a major advantage in terms of recruiting, and it certainly helps with the college guys—they want to get to the NFL, so having a guy with NFL experience to teach them how to get there serves as a great motivator.
Back in early June at Sound Mind Sound Body in Detroit, Mattison couldn’t resist praising his defensive line. But he also mentioned that the linebackers were coming along nicely, waiting to show off their skills this fall. Among those mentioned were Joe Bolden, who “had the best spring of any player,” according to Mattison, who’s entering his fourth year as DC.
As one of the catalysts, Bolden, a 6’3”, 225-pound junior, will be counted on to raise his level of play while Jake Ryan, who was moved to the middle, eases his way back to comfort in the wake of an ACL injury suffered in spring ball 2013. With Mattison so excited about Bolden, it’s fair to assume that the rest of the position group is eager to take the field and show that it can excel with its senior leader.
However, rest assured that Ryan will return to his old, dominant self this season and accentuate a rock-solid corps that includes the likes of James Ross (6’1”, 225; Jr.), Ben Gedeon (6’3”, 236; So.) and, among a few others, Desmond Morgan (6’1”, 225; Sr.).
Mattison's a defensive genius. Having him hover over the linebackers isn't a good thing, it's a great thing.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Notre Dame didn't need to worry about landing a 2015 quarterback for a lengthy stretch of this recruiting cycle. Now, nearly four weeks after 4-star recruit Blake Barnett broke his pledge to the Fighting Irish, the search for his replacement continues with more questions than answers.
The team emerged as a finalist for another Southern California quarterback, but Anaheim standout Travis Waller chose Oregon over Notre Dame on Tuesday morning. Ironically, he fills a spot in Eugene that many thought Barnett was going to take when he initially decommitted.
Waller is a Duck, Barnett is headed to Alabama and Brian Kelly must turn elsewhere.
Jarrett Stidham, a Texas Tech pledge who received a Notre Dame offer in June on the same day as Waller, hasn't publicly given any indication he's wavering in his commitment to the Red Raiders.
The 4-star dual-threat passer was no doubt thrilled by the attention, but if he's reciprocating any interest from South Bend, it's been in silent fashion. Stidham, who threw for 2,613 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2013, will remain on the team's radar but other options must be explored at this point.
Skipping a quarterback in this class is included on the list of possibilities, as current Notre Dame passers Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer have 10 total years of eligibility between them.
There isn't an immediate need for someone who can take the first snap of 2015. Still, is Kelly willing to sit on the sidelines while other powerhouse programs capitalize on an above-average crop of quarterbacks?
That scenario seems unlikely, leading to two options.
Notre Dame can extend new offers to uncommitted prospects like it did with Waller. Or the Irish can attempt to poach pledges from other teams, as in the case of Stidham.
Deondre Francois could still be a candidate in the uncommitted column. The 6'1", 195-pound Florida gunslinger features as powerful a throwing arm as you'll find in this class.
He remains more raw than other top-tier contemporaries, including Stidham and Barnett, but you can argue Francois has more potential as a passer than Waller. His skill set also includes mobility, though he won't sprint past secondaries like the new Oregon commit.
Francois, who recently transferred from Olympia High School (Orlando) to IMG Academy (Bradenton), is now under the tutelage of former Florida State star Chris Weinke. The Heisman Trophy winner is head coach at IMG and may be grooming the Seminoles' next quarterback.
Florida State, Auburn and Oregon were identified as the top three in his recruitment last month. The Ducks are now likely out of the picture with Waller on board, leaving two teams in the mix.
Francois has been targeting a late July announcement, but nothing is certain at this stage. It may not be too late for Notre Dame to change the narrative, and he plans to visit each of his finalists before making a decision.
If he is willing to travel to Oregon, wouldn't Indiana be in his range?
There have been mixed reports about whether or not Francois has received a formal offer, but he would require some serious convincing based on recent comments.
“Notre Dame kind of came in the picture last and it’s not happening with Notre Dame,” Francois told Amy Campbell of Scout.com (h/t South Bend Tribune). “I don’t even have a relationship with the coaches.”
Fast-rising sleeper Sam Darnold may also warrant a closer look from Kelly's staff. He missed most of his junior campaign with a broken foot, but he has shown enough skills at camps to warrant nationwide attention and a spot in the Elite 11 finals this month.
Offers from Tennessee, Duke and, most recently, USC arrived in June. The 6'4", 208-pound California product can pick up big chunks of yardage as a runner and will have a chance to prove his stock as a premier college prospect with a full senior season of work.
Notre Dame may not be able to wait and see how he produces this fall. Judging by Darnold's recent avalanche of interest, the Irish would have a lot of ground to make up by then.
If Kelly opts to go the route of flipping a committed recruit, keep an eye on Brandon Wimbush (Penn State), Sheriron Jones (Florida) and Tyler Queen (Auburn). As Notre Dame fans can attest, quarterback decommitments can happen even when they aren't anticipated.
Notre Dame netted Barnett more than seven months ago. Considering how much can change during that span, perhaps it's important to note we're still seven months away from national signing day.
The search continues in South Bend, for now.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Texas A&M football team will face the typical gauntlet of tough teams that make up an SEC schedule in 2014. They will also face a number of the top individual players at their position in the country.
The Aggies experienced tremendous struggles on defense in 2013. They played a lot of freshmen and could not physically match up with a lot of teams.
The Aggies will be a year older on defense in 2014 and will be a more physically mature group. Whether or not that translates into success on the field remains to be seen.
There are individual football players that the Aggies will face in 2014 who are not a good matchup for the defense on paper. This is a look at some of the toughest players the Aggies will have to try to stop in 2014.