Sophomore tailback Duke Johnson broke his ankle on Miami's final offensive play of the third quarter against FSU attempting to convert a 4th-and-1. That's devastating news for both Johnson and the 'Canes. Now, Miami will try to bounce back against Virginia Tech without their best offensive player.
According to cfbstats.com, Johnson averaged 115 yards per game, that's second in the ACC only to Boston College's Andre Williams. Johnson is third overall in the conference in rushing average. He banged out 6.34 yards a touch. Duke was a threat as a receiver coming out the backfield, and he was Miami's primary kick returner. His loss cannot be understated.
Dallas Crawford, a 5-10, 194-pound redshirt sophomore, is listed as Miami's No. 1 running back. Crawford has netted less than a third of Johnson's total yards (294 to 920), but can punch the ball into the end zone. He rushed for 9 scores, and caught another. According to UM, he's averaging a TD every 7.5 offensive touches.
Earlier in the season against North Carolina, Crawford successfully stepped in for Johnson when he suffered a head injury.
Crawford rushed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner on a 3-yard run with 16 seconds left that lifted Miami to a 27-23 win over the Tar Heels. He finished with a career-high 33 carries for a career-best 145 yards. But as badly as Miami needed that kind of performance from Crawford against North Carolina, the Hurricanes need even more now.
Even though Crawford is Miami's new starter, don't expect him to be Miami's lone star in the backfield.
Offensive coordinator James Coley said replacing Johnson's production will involve a running back by committee approach. Still, expect to see Crawford handle the bulk of the carries with [Eduardo] Clements coming in on third downs and Gus Edwards likely participating in special packages. Freshman Walter Tucker is simply taking more reps in practice in case any of those three go down.
Gus Edwards is a bit of an x-factor. He's a true freshman, rated 3-star by the 247Sports composite, and is a load at 6-2, 225.
Edwards, has had only one carry in the past four games but ran for 113 yards on 12 carries against Savannah State and 53 yards on 10 carries against USF. "He's got deceptive speed," Golden said. "He's a big back that can play fast. ... Gus is ready for this now, and he's definitely going to be carrying the ball for us Saturday."
Obviously, whoever is carrying the ball for Miami Saturday will be something to keep an eye on.