Injured Miami running back Duke Johnson was making the rounds, pumping up his teammates prior to Saturday night’s Russell Athletic Bowl.
It was difficult to sit out the game for Johnson, who broke his right tibia during the Hurricanes’ 41-14 loss at Florida State on Nov. 2. He had immediate surgery two days after the game and he is now in a walking boot.
Johnson said he is unsure of when the boot will come off. He also said, regardless of his progress, he’s “probably not” likely to participate during the spring practice session.
Johnson, who rushed for 920 yards and scored six touchdowns in the eight games he played this season, still made first-team All-ACC despite missing the team’s final five games. As a freshman, Johnson set the UM freshman record for rushing yards in a season with 947 yards and scored 10 TDs. He also set the UM single-season record for kick returns with 892 yards, scoring twice.
The last time Johnson was in the Florida Citrus Bowl he was wearing a UM Ibis-head hat and was running around the field celebrating Miami Norland High’s 38-0 Class 5A state championship victory over Crawfordville Wakulla in 2011.
Miami, for obvious reasons, and Louisville both boast Florida-dominant rosters with 96 players combined on both teams being products of the Sunshine State.
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, who was defensive coordinator at Florida before being hired away by the Cardinals, kept his strong Florida ties and continues to have recruiting success here. He has 38 roster players from Florida, while Miami’s contingent includes 58 home-state players.
The person returning closest to home is Louisville’s backup fullback B.J. Butler, a former 2009 All-Central Florida defensive lineman from Kissimmee Osceola High. He started out as a defensive end and had a great freshman year for the Cardinals, but changed positions for this, his senior season. He has also played some tight end and will occasionally still line up on defense.
There would have been one other player closer to home than Butler, but Miami’s Ray Lewis III did not make the trip with the team. Lewis, a redshirt freshman defensive back, has not been on the travel squad this season. The former Lake Mary Prep star makes his home in Longwood, just a couple of exits up I-4 from the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Redshirt QB Kevin Olsen not on trip
The three quarterbacks who dressed and traveled with Miami were starter Stephen Morris, reserve Ryan Williams and redshirt freshman Gray Crow.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen did not travel with the team, and neither did receiver Rashawn Scott (who has been injured at times this season).
‘Fight Like Dylan’ award
Russell Brands officials announced the winner of the third annual “Fight Like Dylan Award” during the first half of the bowl game Saturday. The award was created as a way to honor Dylan Rebeor, a terminally-ill player whose last wish was new uniforms for his teammates and school. In honor of Dylan, the company will donate $50,000 to this year’s recipient, Buena Vista (Colo.) High School. The school was struck by tragedy back in September when a rock slide killed five family members including Buena Vista assistant football coach Dwayne Johnson and his wife, Dawnam who was the track and field coach at the school. Three other family members also passed away, but Johnson was able to manage to save his 13-year-old daughter, Gracie Johnson. The football team went on to finish the season 11-1 before falling the state semifinals. A committee of judges including Dylan’s mother, Heather Rebeor, former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and current NFL players Pierre Garcon, Mark Ingram and Colt McCoy selected the winner from 110 entries.
Other Russell Ahtletic Bowl tidbits
— Former Florida All-American and Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Emmitt Smith was on the sidelines for the bowl game, all decked out in Louisville colors with a red T-shirt and black pants.
— Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez was also in attendance. He is a member of the new College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Wisconsin plays South Carolina in Wednesday's Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
— Louisville kicker John Wallace set a Russell Athletic Bowl record with three field goals, all in the first half, so he could add to that mark.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun