Wildcats taking speedy Johnson seriously

By Grant Guggisberg

In this week’s showdown with Miami, most of the focus locally is on former Hurricane Arthur Brown.

The Kansas State senior, who went from benchwarmer in Coral Gables to future pro as a Wildcat, deserves much of that attention. But it’s up to Brown to stop Miami freshman sensation Duke Johnson, who came out of nowhere in Week 1 with 135 rushing yards and a pair of long touchdowns, all on just seven carries.

The elusive back, listed at 5-foot-9, 188 pounds, proved to be the difference in Miami’s season-opening win against Boston College as the Hurricanes transitioned to a new scheme offensively, much like the no-huddle offense K-State faced against Missouri State.

Also in transition are the quarterback and running back spots, which has been good for Johnson.

“They’ve got three young guys that are going to play, and obviously the young freshman is kind of the talk of the country right now,” Snyder said. “And legitimately so, he’s a very talented young guy. But so are the other two.”

After his solid production against Boston College, Johnson was named the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the week by the league office on Tuesday.

Johnson was one of two true freshmen to start in Miami’s season-opening win against the Eagles.

The rookie’s big day was the most rushing yards by a Miami true freshman since Javarris James in 2006.

He scored his first-career touchdown on a 54-yard scamper in the second quarter and added a 56-yard score in the third quarter.

In addition to his offense, Johnson tallied a team-high 214 all-purpose yards (135 rush, 10 receiving, 69 kick return).

With the no-huddle offense and the ability to score on long runs, as Johnson did twice in Week 1, expect Snyder to be deliberate in his team’s clock management and grinding pace.

“We don’t win a lot of track meets,” Snyder said. “Who knows what it’ll be like (on Saturday). All I can do is hope that we can slow them down a little bit, so it doesn’t become a track meet.

Snyder doesn’t know how his offense will fare against Miami’s defense, one year removed from a narrow 28-21 over the Hurricanes on the road.

“I don’t have a projection in regard to our capabilities to score a lot of points against them,” he said. “I think they’re a pretty good defensive team and a pretty good offensive team. The jury is out on us, we just have to wait and see.”

Defensively, Brown said the team has done several things to try and prepare for the hurry-up offense of Miami, including putting the defense at a disadvantage on purpose to try and simulate it.

“One thing that coach has done differently than last year, we always turn our backs away from the offensive formation,” Brown said. “Then when he blows the whistle, we have to turn around and react and respond, get in position and in place, then figure out the defensive call.”

As far as dealing with Johnson goes, Brown is fully aware what small, speedy running backs are capable of if you give them any room to run.

“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “Those guys are athletes. They had athletes last year, and we did a good job playing with them. So I don’t think it’ll be any different this year.”

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