University of Miami

UM cornerbacks evolving as a unit

The young Miami Hurricanes cornerback sporting the No. 21 black jersey Sunday was asked to pose for a photo.

“Do you want to look mean or friendly?” Antonio Crawford was asked jokingly. “Mean,” he said, wiping the pleasant grin off his face.

Just then, a much, much larger player limped past Crawford on crutches and, unfortunately, that was no joke.

UM guard Danny Isidora, a 6-4, 308-pound redshirt freshman, sustained a broken foot that will require surgery this week, the Miami Herald learned Sunday afternoon.

Isidora, who graduated from Weston Cypress Bay High with a grade-point average approaching 4.0, sat out last year to hone his craft. He was considered by coaches so promising a talent that he was listed as the backup to preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference guard Brandon Linder on the depth chart distributed just before fall practice began Saturday.

Junior Malcolm Bunche is listed as the starting left guard, with 6-5, 320-pound junior Jon Feliciano behind him. Feliciano started all 12 games last season at left guard.

It has not been revealed how Isidora got injured or how long he will be out. His surgery is expected by the weekend.

Learning curve

As for the 5-11, 187-pound Crawford, he is part of a young cornerback unit that was forced to grow on the fly during an often painful 2012. UM’s pass defense ranked 102nd nationally of 120 FBS teams last season, allowing 268.5 passing yards per game.

But corners such as Crawford, sophomore Tracy Howard and junior Ladarius Gunter pushed through the struggles to emerge stronger and more equipped to face this year’s challenges, they and their coaches insist.

First-teamers Crawford and Gunter are wearing the coveted black jerseys now, but they realize it’s not worth their time to ponder.

“We’re all helping each other,” said Crawford, who played at Tampa Plant and covered now-UM receiver Malcolm Lewis in the 2011 state title game, which Plant won. “It really doesn’t mean anything to start off camp in a black jersey.

“It’s all about what you do during the season.”

Crawford, 19, was discovered by UM, Golden said last season, as coaches were watching Miami prospects Lewis, Howard and others during the state title game.

“ ‘Who is this guy covering Malcolm Lewis?’ ” Golden said they kept asking.

“He had a really, really, really good spring,” UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Sunday of Crawford, who is on the same side as redshirt freshman Nate Dortch.

Crawford said he asked for Brandon McGee’s jersey number after the season because of McGee and “all the great corners who wear or wore No. 21 — like Deion Sanders and Patrick Peterson and Janoris Jenkins” (who plays with McGee on the St. Louis Rams). “I want to uphold that number.”

Taylor fan

The 6-2, 196-pound Gunter transferred to UM from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas before last season. He’s a Montgomery, Ala., native who was never recruited by Alabama, but he didn’t care because he always loved UM and former safety Sean Taylor.

“He just crushed people,” said Gunter, who started five of his 12 games last season, with 27 tackles, an interception, two fumble recoveries and six pass breakups.

“Hopefully, we’ll turn those breakups into interceptions,” he said. “We’ve all settled down from last season.

“I know the playbook inside and out and won’t be thinking as much as reacting.”

Gunter has a much-appreciated knack for bumping receivers off their path.

“You don’t want a receiver to get a free release,” he said, “so you throw him off his route and mess up the timing between him and the quarterback.”

Howard, the nation’s No. 1 cornerback out of Miramar, is battling for the starting spot behind Gunter. He ended Sunday’s practice by intercepting Stephen Morris and knows the depth chart is ever-changing.

“I was young and got caught up into it,” said Howard of his up-and-down freshman year. “Now I just come out here and get better. I don’t even worry about the jersey.”

He recently was chosen by coaches as a leader to serve on UM’s Unity Council.

“As I get older, as I get more mature,” he said, “I get a better understanding of the coaches. Challenges are going to make you prove yourself.”

This and that

• Senior offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson turned his ankle during Saturday’s initial practice, Golden said. It is believed to be a minor injury.

• Redshirt freshman quarterback Preston Dewey has not yet reported to practice but is expected, Golden said.

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