Hurricanes running back Dallas Crawford has been waiting patiently and sometimes not so patiently for his chance to shine.
He has impersonated the opposing teams quarterbacks on the scout team.
He has played running back on the scout team.
He has played receiver on the scout team.
And he has played in every game on special teams, his season highlight being a 9-yard interception return on a botched Bethune-Cookman fake punt.
But it took a beloved teammate getting injured for Crawford to recently work his way off the scout team. And now that he has the chance, the good-natured redshirt freshman is determined to make it count.
Theres really no pressure, Crawford said Monday, three days before he hopes to take his first snaps on offense for the Hurricanes (4-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in a nationally televised home game against Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2). Its not like Im coming in to actually try to be the starter.
Whatever Coach [Jedd] Fisch has in the game plan, thats what Ill do. If Coach Fisch needs me to go play slot, I can do that. If he just needs me to play full-time running back, I can do that also.
I dont care if I dont get any [carries], as long as we win. Thats all I care about.
Crawfords role changed when third-down specialist tailback Eduardo Clements sustained an undisclosed, season-ending injury Oct. 20 against Florida State. Though Mike James and Duke Johnson are both ahead of him, Crawford has earned his shot to contribute against the Hokies.
Except for a 180-yard day against North Carolina, the Canes have struggled in their running game the second half of the season. They mustered 29 yards in their last game against the Seminoles and are ranked 93rd nationally in rushing offense.
The Hokies are allowing 167 rushing yards a game.
UM coach Al Golden said Monday that the Hurricanes need to find a way to open holes and be more balanced. Hes hoping Crawford provides a spark.
Dallas Crawford had a good week, Golden said. He has a little different style. He is shiftier. He has excellent short-area quicks can start and stop. Hes tough, and hes got moxie.
Crawford, a thickly built 5-10 and 190 pounds, came to UM from South Fort Myers High, where he passed for a Lee County record 8,451 yards and 83 touchdowns and rushed for 1,050 yards and 29 touchdowns. As a defensive back, he had 23 career interceptions.
Sometimes well be watching film and well see him do something and it will be like, Holy ! Thats amazing, guard Brandon Linder said. He caught a one-handed ball the other day, and everybody was like, Rewind! Hes a special kid and an athlete, and Im excited to see what he does.
Added Linder: He hits guys, too. Its crazy. Rewind! You see that?
Hes got swag.
Crawfords favorite part of the game, the one he takes the most pride in, he said, is hitting the blitzing linebackers on scout team.
They usually dont see me coming. I like to sneak up in the hole and catch them before they get to Stephen [Morris]. I pretty much take it back to high school when I played safety. It gets a little tiring when youve got to hit Denzel [Perryman] and Eddie [Johnson] all week, but I get used to it.
Guard Jon Feliciano described Crawford as quick and tough.
Sometimes if we get a little loose in the O-line you feel Dallas just come up and whack a defensive tackle. Youre like, Dallas, what are you doing here? He loves to block, and thats good.
Golden appreciates Crawfords unselfishness but said that he has plenty of time to make his mark. Sometimes we forget how young these guys are, the coach said. Dallas is sitting with the rest of this year and three more years to go. Hes worked hard and gotten himself in great condition.
Hes ready to go.