As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Duke Johnson sprung onto the scene during his first ACC game this year — a 135-yard, two-touchdown effort against Boston College. And he failed to slow down for the remainder of his inaugural campaign with the Hurricanes. Taking advantage of his starring role in both the ‘Canes offense and special teams, the freshman totaled 2,060 all-purpose yards (most in the conference) and 13 touchdowns. He was the conference’s leading kick-returner and the focal point of Miami’s attack, averaging 6.8 yards per carry — and this while also splitting carries with senior Mike James. Impressively enough, he ended the season just as well as it started though, if not more so. In a game that would have had huge implications for the Coastal division if not for Miami’s self-imposed ban, Johnson reeled off 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries. While Duke’s run-D certainly wasn’t impressive in 2012, they weren’t the Blue Devils of old, either; meaning this was no product of a weak opponent. For Johnson, his six games of 100+ total yards were integral to the Hurricanes’ success, and when he failed to play well, the team also suffered. Should Miami be bowl-eligible in 2013 (and chances are they will be), it’ll be on the legs and shoulders of Duke Johnson.