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Miami's Duke Johnson says mom will play role in pro decision

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Miami junior tailback Duke Johnson -- coming off the biggest performance of his career -- said Monday that his mother will have a big say as to whether he turns pro after this season.

Johnson (5-foot-9, 206 pounds) rushed for 249 yards and a TD as the Hurricanes embarrassed Virginia Tech last Thursday, and Hokies coach Frank Beamer -- who has been at Tech since 1987 -- said Johnson was the best running back he had seen in his career.

That was the first 200-yard game of Johnson's career and it gave him 1,036 yards this season, just the ninth time in school history a back has reached 1,000 yards. In addition, Johnson now has 2,903 career rushing yards, which is fourth in UM history. He should be second after Saturday's game against defense-challenged North Carolina: He trails Edgerrin James, who is second, by just 57 yards. James Jackson currently is third at 2,953 yards.

So, Johnson has the numbers. Will that be enough of an enticement to leave early? He had said a goal was to graduate after his junior year, but he told reporters Monday that he would not be able to graduate with a sports administration degree until December 2015. He also told reporters his mother, Cassandra Mitchell, will play a big role in the decision.

"That's a decision we have to make -- majority her," Johnson said. "I have some say-so in my decision, but for the most part, it's her. She wants to see me get my degree. She wants to see me be successful after football.

"You can always come back, but it's something ... we would have to sit down and really look at it at the end of the season."

Johnson is not considered to be in the class of Georgia's Todd Gurley or Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, who are seen as potential first-round picks. But Johnson's production and speed put him in the second tier.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote over the summer that Johnson is "the most talented runner to play at 'The U' since Frank Gore (and) has a game that's already ready-made for the pros." Like Johnson, Gore is a Miami native, and he left UM after his junior season in 2004.

"The degree isn't something I want him to keep putting off," his mother told the Miami Herald. "I tell him it's ultimately his decision. I'm going to tell him what I feel, but right now I'm mixed.

"I think another year would give him more confidence and put him where he really wants to be at, and then he'd have his degree and everything would be right there. It sounds too good to be true, right?"

Johnson missed the final five games last season with a broken leg, but he seems completely recovered from that injury. He currently is riding a streak of four consecutive 100-yard games -- the longest such streak of his career -- and he has rushed for at least 90 yards in all eight of Miami's games. He's 10th nationally in rushing, at 129.5 yards per game.

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

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