In 2011 Lamar Miller became the latest in a line of great college runners Miami has produced. Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, James Jackson, Edgerrin James, Najah Davenport, and others have starred in the Canes backfield over the last decade. Miller only lasted a season before hopping to the NFL early leaving and Miami without an obvious replacement for 2012.
Senior Mike James will undoubtedly be the leader of the group. At 5’11”, 222 James was the “smash” part of “smash and dash” last year with Miller. James wasn’t used very much (just 72 carries/9 receptions), and actually saw his production dip from 398 yards to 275, primarily because he was used more in short yardage situations. James averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his sophomore season, so he has shown capable of being more than just a 4-yards-and-cloud-of-dust kind of back, and will need to be if he hopes to get anywhere near the 227 carries Miller garnered last year as the lead back.
Another Canes back with some experience is junior Eduardo Clements (5’9″, 195). Clements saw action in all 12 games last season, and though he only racked up 82 rushing yards for the season, he also had 163 receiving yards, proving he can be a catching threat out of the backfield.
True freshman Duke Johnson is the guy everyone is excited about though. A five star recruit with all the attributes you look for, Johnson (5’9″, 183) is expected to see the field early and often. It would seem he is the most likely to possess the big-play ability that the other two backs don’t have enough of. And don’t think coach Al Golden will hesitate to play the rookie.
“I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent,” he said, borrowing a line from the legendary John Wooden.
Freshman Dallas Crawford (5’10”, 190), sophomore Joey McNeil (5’10”, 175), junior Jameson Labady (5’11”, 215), sophomore Darris Hughes (5’10”, 195) make up the rest of the running backs.
Maurice Hagens (5’11” 240) is a junior and the only fullback listed on the roster. The Canes will run a lot of three-wide and two-tight end formations leaving the fullback off the field, but Hagens is the guy when they have one in play. It’s also likely Mike James will lineup at the fullback spot for both short yardage carries and for creative play calling.
2012 definitely appears to be a running back-by-committee approach for Miami. Lamar Miller ran for 1272 last season with the team totally over 1600 yards on the ground. This season, I’d guess they don’t have a 1000-yard rusher, but will approach 1500 yards total if they find success.