Regardless of the various angles from which Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden dissects his football team — special teams, defense and offense among them — he always comes back to one player on the “best of’’ list.
Dallas Crawford has stood out for his many roles at Miami: scout team defensive back, quarterback, running back and receiver; special-teams ace; starting running back; and now, safety.
“I don’t think there’s a guy in this building that doesn’t think he’s a top-22 guy,’’ Golden said of Crawford, a rising fourth-year junior from Fort Myers. “Great attitude, tough kid and you guys know the rest.’’
Crawford, who led Miami with 13 touchdowns last season, was recruited as a safety, earned defensive scout team player of the year while redshirting, was switched to tailback as a redshirt freshman and became the starting running back after Duke Johnson broke his ankle at Florida State.
While tailbacks Johnson and recently arrived freshman Joseph Yearby (fractured fibula) sit out the spring to heal, Golden decided he needed the help at safety. Crawford, a hard-hitting 5-10 and 195 pounds, never flinched. His departure from the offense leaves 6-2, 235-pound Gus Edwards to take on the primary tailback responsibilities for now.
Also practicing at tailback is usual fullback Walter Tucker and senior DeAndre Johnson.
“I had a meeting with Coach Golden and he laid out all the pros and cons of switching, and there were more pros than cons,’’ Crawford said. “I trust Coach Golden, so I’m all in.
“There’s nothing negative about this switch. I can hit. I can be a playmaker. I can go get the ball. I’ve got free range to make plays. … Playing offense and seeing both sides of the spectrum has really helped me. I know how the game works.’’
Indeed. Last season, Crawford sealed his reputation for being a man of many talents. He rushed for 558 yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 carries for a 4.1 yards-per-carry average. He caught 20 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. He had six tackles on special teams and returned four punts. And he not only blocked a punt at North Carolina and rushed for a career-high 137 yards and two touchdowns, he also scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left to give UM a 27-23 victory.
“He’s a natural,’’ defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “He’s got great instincts.’’
Crawford soared sky-high to break up a pass during practice this past weekend. Two plays later he had an interception. But he gave up a long touchdown to Rashawn Scott during a two-minute drill to end Sunday’s session.
“He was disappointed because he doesn’t know all the coverages yet,’’ said Golden, who told Crawford in front of the team, ‘Don’t worry about that one, man. You had a great day.’
“He’s so coachable and tough.’’
Cornerback Larry Hope is glad Crawford is on his side.
“He’s got swift hips,’’ Hope said. “I always told Dallas he was one of the best football players all around. He’s breaking up passes and he’s getting plays.
“He’s open to everything, ready to work and saying, ‘What’s up next?’ ’’
Linebacker Denzel Perryman assured reporters that Crawford will work out just fine on defense. “The day he got moved,’’ Perryman said, “the first thing he told me was, ‘You can’t hit me no more!’ ”
Only offensive coordinator James Coley views the move as bittersweet.
“You lose a guy who was such a leader on offense,’’ Coley said, “but the team needed him at safety.
“Great attitude, great kid.’’