University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes still waiting for Duke Johnson’s successor to emerge

Joe Yearby runs for a first down against Florida A&M at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sept. 6, 2014.
Joe Yearby runs for a first down against Florida A&M at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sept. 6, 2014. Miami Herald Staff

With star running back Duke Johnson headed to the NFL, University of Miami fans still don’t know who they will see get the first carry in next season’s Sept. 5 opening game against Bethune-Cookman.

Hurricanes coach Al Golden doesn’t know who it will be either.

Golden indicated Wednesday that life without Johnson will present a major challenge, namely: Who will rise to the top?

Gus Edwards, a 6-2, 230-pound junior, was battling 5-9, 195-pound sophomore Joe Yearby during the spring.

But Edwards injured his left shoulder in the March 28 spring game and wore a sling in early April.

If nobody dominates, a tailback-by-committee will prevail.

“We really haven’t changed who we are philosophically,” Golden said Wednesday during the Atlantic Coast Conference spring teleconference.

“We’re very excited about Gus and Joe, and Trayone [Gray] is very talented. He’s still learning the position but very talented.”

Golden also mentioned fullback Walter Tucker and incoming four-star tailback Mark Walton, who will be arriving this summer out of Booker T. Washington High.

“It may not be just one; it may be more of getting several guys the same amount of touches. But if one of those guys separates himself as Duke did, then he’ll get the majority of the touches,” Golden said.

“Right now, we’re still in that phase of waiting to see one of them break out. If not, we’ll do it by committee.”

Last season, Yearby had 509 yards and one touchdown on 86 carries for a 5.9 yard-per-carry average.

Edwards had 349 yards and six touchdowns on 61 carries for a 5.7-yard average.

Johnson, the Hurricanes’ all-time leading rusher, finished the season with 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns on 242 carries for a 6.8-yard average.

Golden didn’t elaborate on Edwards’ injury but said the only players who underwent surgeries “coming out of the spring” were linebacker Tyriq McCord and wide receiver Malcolm Lewis.

“They both needed a scope, and both of them are doing great,” said Golden, adding that all of the previously injured players “are fully integrated right now or will be integrated” by the first summer session that begins in mid-May.

When asked about offensive tackle Taylor Gadbois’ status in light of multiple reports indicating he might be suspended for part of the season, Golden stayed vague, saying the university would release that information if or when “we find out” or “can verify anything.”

Golden added that Gadbois, who has been recuperating from a knee injury, “will be fully integrated by Summer I it sounds like.”

Golden said he doesn’t anticipate anyone transferring from or to UM.

“But, again, it is this time of year,” he said.

“If a young man is unhappy with his playing time or that type of thing, it generally comes up this time of year, or something else presents itself. If they do occur, we will notify you.”