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Miami's Duke Johnson key to upset hopes vs. Florida State

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Steve Helber / Associated Press
Duke Johnson's 1,213 yards rushing currently ranks seventh at the FBS level.

Miami (Fla.) junior tailback Duke Johnson is on a roll, and No. 3 Florida State is the next team that has to try to stop him.

Johnson (5-foot-9, 206 pounds) has a string of five consecutive 100-yard games and has averaged 196.0 yards over the past three games, with a per-carry average of 10.1 yards in those outings. He is the main reason the Hurricanes have averaged 331.3 rushing yards per game in the past three games.

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He is eighth nationally in rushing yards per game (134.8) and should finish the season as Miami's leading career rusher; he currently is 252 yards behind Ottis Anderson's 3,331.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote earlier this month that NFL scouts have noticed Johnson's "vision, quickness and explosiveness."

"With Johnson also showing exceptional skills as a receiver out of the backfield, he could be a better pro prospect than some of the bigger names garnering the headlines at the position," Brooks wrote.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher certainly has been impressed by Johnson.

"Duke's as good a tailback as there is anywhere," Fisher said Monday during his weekly news conference.

Fisher described Johnson as "very strong in his hips and legs, very quick body movements, very fast. And then when he gets in space ... usually those little guys like that are quick but don't have that unbelievable top-end speed. Once he gets in green grass, you have a hard time catching him."

Johnson is sixth nationally in all-purpose yardage (1,486), and among the 56 players with at least 150 touches (rushes and receptions), he leads the nation at 8.3 yards per play.

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"Once he makes a cut and gets through a gap, you can pretty much kiss the baby. He's going to be gone," FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. told reporters earlier this week.

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Florida State has struggled at times to stop the run. The Seminoles (9-0) have allowed at least 150 rushing yards six times this season; that happened just four times in 14 games last season, when they won the national title. The Seminoles need big games from Edwards, tackle Eddie Goldman and linebacker Terrance Smith as they attempt to stifle Johnson.

Johnson should have extra incentive Saturday: He was on a pace for close to a 1,500-yard season when he suffered a broken ankle in last season's loss to FSU.

Johnson has said his mother will play a big role in deciding whether he returns to school for his senior season or turns pro.

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

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