The University of Miami made a surprise addition in two sports Wednesday, landing four-star running back Cornelius Elder, who was ranked the No. 17 running back and 203rd-best player in the Class of 2013 by ESPN.
UM said he also will be permitted to join the basketball team, which was his desire. He’s ranked 35th among all point guards in the 2013 class.
“It’s a great marriage for us,” UM coach Al Golden said on 790 The Ticket, after Elder signed his letter of intent. “We have a need at that position [running back]. Excellent speed, lateral quickness, change of direction.
“Corn was having trouble trying to decide between going Division 1 in football or playing Division I basketball. He will have an opportunity to walk on [in basketball] and play basketball for a Top 5 program. We’re excited to get him in the fold.”
The UM football team showed limited interest in Elder for months before making an offer Wednesday morning. He committed a few hours later, choosing UM over Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
Elder, the 18th player in this UM football recruiting class, tweeted that he has always been a Hurricanes fan. So he was thrilled when the Hurricanes finally made an offer a week after National Signing Day.
Though he can also play slot receiver and cornerback, Elder will play running back for UM – a position of need because of the graduation of Mike James and the precarious health situation of Eduardo Clements. Clements has been wearing a neck brace and his status is uncertain, Golden said last week.
Elder, 5-10 and 170 pounds, will join Duke Johnson, Danny Dillard, Dallas Crawford, Clements and another newcomer (Augustus Edwards) as the top backs on UM’s roster, and newcomer Ray Lewis III can play running back or defensive back. Maurice Hagens returns at fullback.
During his high school career in Tennessee, Elder produced 6,351 yards and 84 touchdowns. He helped lead his team to three consecutive state titles and ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns in this past season’s championship game. He was Tennessee’s Mr. Football in 2011 and 2012.
He also led his basketball team to state titles as a sophomore and junior and is averaging 21 points per game this season.
Though UM hadn’t been recruiting Elder in basketball, UM coaches like his game and he had several major basketball offers, including from Purdue.
“If anyone can do both sports, it’s him,” said Ricky Bowers, his football and basketball coach at Ensworth High in Nashville. “That’s because of his skill level, speed, and competitive spirit. As a running back, he’s fantastic in space, rare feet, great anticipation. As a basketball player, he has good explosion.”
The UM basketball team has been searching for a point guard to back up Shane Larkin next season, and Elder likely will compete for that job.