UM

Miami Hurricanes’ Dallas Crawford feels right at home as safety

 

UM’s Dallas Crawford played running back last season, but he feels comfortable with a switch to safety.

 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Leadership role:</span> Dallas Crawford was pressed into service as a running back last season when Duke Johnson went down with an injury, but Crawford is now taking charge of UM’s secondary as a safety.
Leadership role: Dallas Crawford was pressed into service as a running back last season when Duke Johnson went down with an injury, but Crawford is now taking charge of UM’s secondary as a safety.
Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff

jfeldman@MiamiHerald.com

Remember that guy who led the University of Miami football team with 13 touchdowns last year? The one who ran in the game-winning touchdown against North Carolina in October and had at least one reception out of the backfield in each of the final six games?

He’s not playing running back anymore.

But Dallas Crawford did not complain when Hurricanes coach Al Golden explained his new plans for the junior. Instead, Crawford was excited to return to the safety position.

Crawford has been many things. He was once a quarterback at South Fort Myers High, where he was Sammy Watkins’ teammate. Crawford also was a member of the Michigan Wolverines, where he committed before opting for Miami.

Recruited as a defensive back, Crawford was a practice-squad member as a freshman, earning defensive scout player of the year honors while there. He did just about everything the following year, recording a rush, a completed pass and even bringing down a rare special-teams interception on a fake punt.

Last year, the spotlight found him after starting running back Duke Johnson was injured. Crawford led the team in carries over the final five weeks, posting his best numbers against UNC (137 yards, two touchdowns) and Duke (115 yards).

Crawford accomplished that without any real experience in the backfield.

“I was just playing running back off natural talent,” he said last week. “I was doing everything off reaction last year.”

But nobody will never know what Crawford could have done with time to learn the position.

In a meeting he had with UM coach Al Golden after the 2013 season, the two discussed the pros and cons of a switch and decided Crawford should return to the defensive backfield.

So far, Crawford is glad he changed positions.

“I was lucky enough to make the switch in the spring so I got a little experience under my belt, and I feel good,” he said. “I feel at home.”

He added that he has felt comfortable with the defensive playbook since before the spring game, and he started camp wearing a coveted black jersey, indicating his current position as a starter.

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said he has been impressed by Crawford’s physical instincts. He expects Crawford will add some pop to a last line of defense that struggled at times last year.

Defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo said he is excited to get Crawford back on his side of the ball.

“He’s one of the best football players I’ve ever been around,” Chickillo said. “Dallas is a football player — that’s what he is — he can play any spot.”

Crawford is already establishing himself as a leader at the position despite also being the new guy, according to his fellow defensive backs.

“I’m trying to take on leadership role,” Crawford said. “It being my fourth year in the program, it was time for me to step up.”

Crawford said he takes pride in making open-field tackles and is looking forward to displaying his physicality by hitting people rather than getting hit.

There is one player in particular he is looking forward to taking down.

“I played against [Duke Johnson] in high school, and we talk trash all the time,” Crawford said. “He doesn’t want to give me credit for hitting him in high school.

“I’ve got to make him remember it.”

At the same time, Crawford is trying to make everyone forget everything else he has been.

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