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Miami's Duke Johnson is bigger, stronger -- and faster

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Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL
Miami running back Duke Johnson has added weight in an effort to become more durable.

Miami's quarterback situation is nebulous, to say the least, but good news for whomever is the starter is that junior tailback Duke Johnson appears poised for a big season.

Well-traveled senior Jake Heaps and true freshman Brad Kaaya are vying for Miami's starting quarterback job, and it might be a while before Hurricanes coach Al Golden makes a decision on the starter. But having Johnson should be a nice security blanket for the quarterback.

Johnson said last month at the ACC Media Days event that he gained about 20 pounds during the offseason to combat critics who said he was too light. Johnson, who is 5-foot-9, said then that he was up to 206 pounds, and he could end up playing this season at around 210 pounds. One reason for the added weight was more durability, and he said he thinks he could handle 25 carries a game.

Miami coach Al Golden said the "new" Johnson is impressive.

"He has an edge about him," Golden said at the start of fall camp. "He has a focus about him that he continued and grew since the spring. (It is) a physical, more durable, stronger version of Duke Johnson -- but faster."

Johnson has yet to post a 1,000-yard season, but barring injury, that seems a given this fall. Johnson has rushed for 1,867 yards and 16 TDs in two seasons; he missed five games last season with a broken ankle suffered in a loss to Florida State but still managed 920 yards. He always has run with a certain toughness, and he also has good speed. His career per-carry average is 6.6 yards, and he has had nine runs of 40-plus yards, 12 of 30-plus yards and 17 of 20-plus yards in his career.

Golden is eager to see Johnson this fall.

"I think the biggest thing is we all want to see him pick up where he left off," Golden said. "He was pressing his runs, they were hitting where they were designed to hit, so he had great discipline at the end of last year. He was running between the tight ends really well; then when he got to the second level, he would allow his talent to take over. He was very disciplined in that."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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