“What makes Duke so good is he’s so versatile,” Morris said. “A lot of guys can’t do the things he can do. He can play slot, he can play kick return. He’s just a game-changer for us. We have to make sure we use him the right way and take care of his body.
“Obviously, he’s going to be more of an every-down back now that Mike James has gone to the NFL.”
Defenses will be keying on both players this season.
“The greatest physical strength on our offense, maybe on our team, is the offensive line,” UM coach Al Golden said. “But most people would say the most talented player is either Stephen or Randy.”
Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio knows it’s not only “fun” for his players to “compete against Morris and Johnson every day,” but it’s also a learning tool.
“Duke has that versatility and make-you-miss ability,” D’Onofrio said. “I mean, he’s hard to tackle. He’s got great lateral quickness and burst and speed. And Stephen is a really, really smart quarterback. He’s going to look for the weakness in a defense and try to find that and exploit it.
“Obviously, he can make the throws.”
New offensive coordinator James Coley was asked about their temperaments on the field. Both seem pretty mellow off it.
“Stephen is a little more fiery,” Coley said. “Duke is a little more laid back. He’s younger, so he comes over and listens and wants to know why things ended up going the way they went on a particular play.”
How rare is it for a team to have a quarterback/running back combination such as this one?
“Rare outside the top 20,” Coley said. “The great teams have it. If you look at the teams that are playing in big-time bowl games and championships, they’ve got a quarterback and they’ve got a running back.”
But not always from the same backyard.
Morris, a South Floridian like Johnson and so many of their teammates, watches clips of former UM greats such as linebacker Ray Lewis.
“How can you not watch old videos of the U and see Ray Lewis dance?” Morris said. “That’s what really made this program special. That’s what made this program what it is today.
“You talk about swag. You talk about all that other stuff. Yeah, that’s important. But first of all, we got it off of hard work and dedication. The U means a lot more than putting your two hands together.
“When you go back to your roots, you definitely understand that.”