Corn Elder wanted to play football and basketball at Miami.
He still does.
It just might take a little longer.
“I don’t know yet,” Elder said Friday when asked if he would join the basketball team after football. “We’re just going to see how the football season goes and take it from there. I love both sports, but I think I have a higher ceiling in football.”
Elder, a 5-10, 175-pound sophomore, is one of several Miami cornerbacks in a heated battle for substantial playing time this season.
One of the most heralded athletes in Tennessee when he graduated from the Ensworth School in 2013, he tore the meniscus of his right knee Nov. 22 against Virginia, altering his future.
“It was a freak accident,” he said Friday. “I made a tackle, came up and was hurting. I went through surgery and physical therapy, and it was a humbling experience.”
Elder’s talent is evident, say his coaches, but his size is lacking.
He said he needs to get to “180 pounds-plus.”
“He was moving along nicely and the injury curtailed that,” UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “He needs to bulk up a little, get bigger physically. He’s got talent.
Elder was a star running back in high school, but D’Onofrio said he seemed like a natural for cornerback.
“He has good athleticism, he can flip his hips and has good body control and is very fast,” D’Onofrio said. “And the thing that was surprising in the beginning was he was also very willing to be physical having really not played defense before.”
Elder finished his prep career with 6,351 rushing yards, 84 touchdowns and three consecutive state titles.
He said he also won three state basketball championships.
“[He’s] very talented, very bright,” coach Al Golden said. “That’s a heck of a battle at corner right now. Lot of guys competing. That race is far from over.’’
Elder is the speediest defensive back, clocking a 4.46-second average over his two 40-yard dashes this summer. His fastest 40: 4.37.
Fellow cornerback Antonio Crawford averaged 4.47.
Elder’s main competitors are veterans Tracy Howard, Ladarius Gunter, Antonio Crawford and sophomore Artie Burns.
Howard, who had a team-leading four interceptions last season and is considered a major reason this secondary is expected to be the strength of the defense, wasn’t wearing his usual first-team black jersey in practice Friday.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with motivation,” D’Onofrio said of the jersey color. “It’s are you playing to the standard of a black jersey on a daily basis. It’s not an easy thing. We started out based on the offseason program, so the guys who started camp with a black jersey were the ones who had the best performances in the offseason program.”
Said Elder: “I’ve learned a lot from Tracy. He’s a student of the game, so I try to stay with him and study the playbook together.”
Crawford, who had one interception in each of the past two practices (and also got beat by Stacy Coley on a fade pass for a touchdown Friday by Jake Heaps), has kept his black jersey.
“He’s finishing better,” Golden said. “The only thing we wanted him to do is continue to work on his conditioning and by virtue of that, his mental toughness — and just finish every play, every rep. He’s one of the fastest guys we have.
“They know it’s a challenge, all those guys. The thing about corners is they all fight for the same job. They all fight for the nickel, the field corner, the boundary corner and generally have the same jobs on kickoff coverage, punt coverage, kickoff returns.
“We’ll see how it shakes out.”