University of Miami fans will finally learn whether Duke Johnson leaves the Hurricanes for the NFL Draft on Dec.28, his mother’s birthday and the day after the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
Johnson has said all along that his mother, Cassandra Mitchell, will play a major role in the decision-making.
After the Hurricanes (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) had their first practice in two weeks Friday to prepare for the bowl against South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference), Johnson told reporters he had not received his draft projection from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. The deadline for applying to enter the draft is Jan.15.
“I don’t really look at it as a big deal,’’ Johnson said. “Just a regular decision to me.’’
Most expect that Johnson, who already has broken UM’s all-time rushing and all-purpose yards records, will leave Miami. In fact, he and left tackle Ereck Flowers were the only juniors among a large group of seniors who wore street clothes and served as player-coaches during practice.
Flowers is also believed to be leaning heavily toward entering the draft.
As for fellow Miamian and junior Deon Bush, a gifted safety, he said Friday he is “100 percent’’ certain he will return for his senior season to finish his career with his teammates and earn his degree in sports administration.
“I just love being here,’’ Bush said.
In other UM news, coach Al Golden said tight end Clive Walford, who hurt his knee in the season finale against Pittsburgh and had surgery a week ago Wednesday, will miss the bowl game — ending his college career.
Walford played in 48 games, 35 of them starts, and had 121 catches for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns. The receptions, yards and touchdowns are school records for a tight end.
“It’s a tough way to go out,’’ quarterback Brad Kaaya said Friday. “I’m just praying for a speedy recovery for Clive. He had an awesome season. He will be missed because he was a really essential target in our offense.”
Also out for the bowl game: junior Herb Waters, who hurt his neck at Virginia and is in a brace.
Golden said freshman guard Nick Linder, who did not practice and has an undisclosed injury, has “a chance’’ to play in the bowl.
The Canes seemed especially happy, energetic and engaged in their first practice back on a gorgeous Friday morning.
Two freshmen were switched to new positions: Marques Gayot from safety to weakside linebacker; and David Njoku from receiver back to tight end.
Golden, who hadn’t addressed the media since the night of the Pittsburgh loss, said the long layoff was essential for many reasons. The players are taking finals this week, and needed to clear their heads after a three-game slide that made for an especially disappointing end to the regular season.
Does it need to feel like a different season?
“It needs to feel like that, to be perfectly honest,’’ Golden said. “It needs to feel like a one-game season, if you will. We have all the vets who we’re trying to get healed up and we want to send them off winners. And then you have like 97 guys that are coming back and they know what this means in terms of our future.’’
The Canes, who leave for Shreveport, Louisiana, on Dec.22, practice again Saturday.
Former UM quarterback Kevin Olsen, who never played at Miami and left school in September after an arrest for DUI, is expected to transfer to Towson (Maryland) University. Olsen would not have to sit out a season there because Towson is a Football Championship Subdivision team.