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Whether it's Duke or Randy, Johnson will carry Miami

Randy? Duke? The Duke? By any name, Johnson poised to improve on freshman season.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — So who is this Randy Johnson to whom Miami coach Al Golden keeps referring?

After all, there's no reason for Golden to be citing the future Hall of Fame pitcher when discussing the Hurricanes' ground game.

Miami's 2013 roster does include two Johnsons, running backs Duke and DeAndre, but no "Randy."

Or does it?

"He's the only one who calls me Randy," Duke Johnson said Saturday before the 'Canes 8:20 a.m. practice, the team's first of the new season.

Did he have a preference, Duke or Randy?

"Duke," Johnson said without hesitation.

Did Coach Golden know that?

"Yeah," Johnson said with a smile. "He just laughs about it."

About 20 minutes later, Golden was told that he apparently was the only one calling his starting running back "Randy." 

"Am I the only one? I thought it was his mom," Golden said. "I'll call him whatever he wants to be called. We're still gonna give him the ball, I don't care what you call him."

"The Duke," as tabbed by senior quarterback Stephen Morris, rushed for a UM freshman-record and team-leading 947 yards and 10 TDs last season despite splitting time with Mike James, who since has graduated to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"My mindset is the same as last year," Johnson said. "Mike James did a great job last year of mentoring me and helping me come along.

"I'm excited. I'm ready to get out here and play some football. All summer we've been doing strength and conditioning. Now it's time to get down to football."

The Miami Norland High School product added nearly eight pounds of muscle during the offseason. That should help him handle an expected increased workload.

"I feel better, more powerful," he said. "Haven't lost anything."

That's great news for 'Canes fans. Johnson earned second-team All-America honors as a true freshman who totaled 2,060 all-purpose yards, second-most in UM history.

Just how good can Johnson become?

"Duke can be Duke," Morris said. "He's one of those guys who's got a lot of talent. He definitely understands the game of football. He did everything right in the weight room to get better."

Johnson would be helped if senior fullback Maurice Hagens, redshirt freshman Danny Dillard or true freshman Gus Edwards emerges as a "big back" to complement 5-foot-9, 196-pounder's finesse.

The Duke also returned kicks in 2012, when he set a team single-season record with 892 return yards and 2 TDs. 

"I enjoy it a lot, just another way to hep my team get better field position or score," he said. "I wouldn't really be disappointed if I wasn't back there just because I know if they take me off, they're going to put a guy back there capable of doing the same thing I am."

Perhaps, but would that guy have two names?

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas