The Miami Hurricanes' 7-0 start to the 2013 season was a team effort, but running back Duke Johnson stood out above the rest, staking a claim to team MVP.
But Johnson fractured his ankle and is out for the season. Deep threat Phillip Dorsett also suffered an injury and the 'Canes needed a consistent force to fill the void.
Though hidden by Johnson early on, senior wide receiver Allen Hurns has been that guy throughout the entire season.
To his credit, Hurns has proven to be more than a one-trick pony who solely performs as a pass-catcher. He has been the Hurricanes' best all-around receiver, shedding tacklers, gaining yards after the catch and throwing excellent blocks.
During the 2013 campaign, though, Hurns has cemented himself as Miami's most reliable weapon and most valuable player.
Against Florida Atlantic in the 'Canes' season opener, Herb Waters scored a touchdown on a 63-yard reverse. But even though Hurns' number was not specifically called, he finished the play and was rewarded for his hustle.
Waters made an excellent cut into the middle of the field, and 48 yards from the line of scrimmage, Hurns destroyed the final defender standing in the way of Waters' touchdown.
The following game versus then-No. 12 Florida, there were 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Miami had not run an offensive play on the Gators' side of the field since the 7:30 mark in the first quarter—or 37 minutes and six seconds of game time.
Hurns ran a curl route, received a pass from quarterback Stephen Morris, shook one tackler, gained 28 yards after the catch and put the Hurricanes in UF territory.
When Miami was struggling to pull away from Georgia Tech, the play called for Hurns to perform a comeback route, and he executed it to perfection. A laser from Morris allowed Hurns to break his defender's tackle and sprint up the sideline, getting a block from fellow receiver Dorsett and reaching the end zone.
He doesn't shy away from contact, either, as seen after catching a deep pass for a 42-yard gain against North Carolina. Hurns absorbed the hit, stayed upright and actually forced the defender to the ground.
One month ago, Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post noted Miami head coach Al Golden had noticed significant improvement in Hurns' game.
"Everything that he’s doing right now, he’s doing at a different speed for him. Allen’s a big receiver, so for Allen to play as fast as he’s playing takes a lot of work. And it took a lot of work."
During the Hurricanes' biggest clash of the season against an elite Florida State squad, Hurns caught five passes for 84 yards and two scores.
Hurns earned an early touchdown, beating his man down the sideline and hauled in a beautiful pass from his fellow senior Morris.
Seconds before halftime, though, Hurns made the best catch of his college career. He ran a crisp corner route, taking eight steps before angling to the sideline, tracked a deflected ball and tapped one foot in the end zone.
Hurns' first 32 games at Miami were decent, compiling 59 receptions for 729 yards and eight touchdowns. But throughout the 2013 campaign, the receiver has demanded much more attention from opposing defensive backs, becoming Morris' go-to target.
According to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald, offensive coordinator James Coley calls Hurns "the steady workhorse," and he certainly has been consistent this season.
Through the 'Canes' first five games, he tallied 20 catches, 393 yards and two touchdowns, and Hurns has registered 25 receptions, 446 yards and three scores over Miami's five most recent contests.
In 2013, Hurns has snagged 45 passes for 839 yards and five touchdowns, each of which is a team season-high and personal career-high statistic.
|Allen Hurns' 2013 Game Log|
Comparatively, Hurns has 17 catches and 433 yards more than any other Miami wideout. Sophomore Herb Waters and true freshman Stacy Coley have 406 and 405 yards, respectively.
But not only has he snagged the most passes, 30 of Hurns' 45 receptions have gone for first downs.
Let that sink in.
Hurns has 30 first-down catches, while Clive Walford and Herb Waters each have 28 catches total.
After two decent seasons as a receiver, Hurns is working his way into both the single-season and career record books at Miami.
Morris launched a deep pass to Hurns, who outran defenders for an 84-yard touchdown, and it was the ninth-longest pass in school history. Earlier this season, the duo connected for another long score, an 80-yard touchdown on the 'Canes' third offensive play of the game.
Overall, Hurns has four 100-yard-plus games in 2013—one shy of Eddie Brown's school-record five times, accomplished in 1984.
Hurns is 161 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark this season. He would join Leonard Hankerson (1,156 yards in 2010), Brown (1,114 in 1984) and Andre Johnson (1,092 in 2002) as the only players to accomplish this feat.
Additionally, the Carol City High School product needs 128 yards to collect the 10th-most receiving yards at Miami, tying Eddie Brodsky on the all-time list. With 13 career touchdowns, Hurns is also tied for ninth-most in school history.
As highlighted in a "Raising Canes" episode, Hurns' greatest fear is letting down his mom, even though she says she "does not think that's possible."
And this season, Hurns' performance has not disappointed anyone; in fact, it's been MVP-worthy.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR