Miami Football: Dallas Crawford's Move to Defense Great for Team Morale

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Filling in for an injured Duke Johnson, sophomore running back Dallas Crawford brought the Miami Hurricanes back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road at North Carolina.

Crawford added a 115-yard performance in a losing effort to Duke, and he led the 'Canes with 13 total touchdowns during the 2013 season.

Right before the 2014 spring session, however, the Miami coaching staff switched Crawford back to safety, the position at which he was recruited. Crawford is fully capable of playing the position, and he will provide yet another boost to the growing secondary.

But the timing of the move seems to be poor.

Johnson is still recovering from a fractured ankle, early enrollee Joseph Yearby is sidelined because of a fibula injury and Eduardo Clements ran out of eligibility last year.

Sophomores Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker are the top two available backs, while transfer De'Andre Johnson and walk-on Quincy Casimir are the only others on the roster.

Originally, if felt like a time to question Al Golden and Co. in this specific situation. But once the season starts, switching Crawford will actually pay off for Miami.


Spring Practice Impact

This one is unavoidable: Miami is extremely shorthanded at running back this spring. As mentioned earlier, Johnson and Yearby are unavailable, and Gus Edwards is ultimately the lone player who has meaningful in-game carries.

But Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post notes Golden believes the 'Canes are fine. He said, "I always tell the coaches, we don't play a game in the spring. We'll find a way. Let's not put somebody there."

Granted, of course Golden will say something like that. It is rather unlikely a coach will ever concede, "Nah, we're not comfortable doin' this, but YOLO. Know what I'm saying?"

On the other hand, Golden is looking toward the future and placing stock in the current unit of available running backs avoiding injury. All that is possible because he is confident both Duke's and Yearby's respective rehabs are encouraging. 

Per Porter, the fourth-year head coach said, "We don't make that decision not knowing what the doctors are saying or how they're reacting to running over here or what they're doing in the training room. They're both doing really well."

Although Miami is shorthanded this spring, a triumvirate of Duke, Yearby and Edwards during the regular season is undoubtedly an appealing thought.


Presence in the Defensive Backfield

Miami coaches have complimented Crawford's work ethic throughout his time at "The U," and this situation is yet another example of the junior's team-first attitude.

According to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Golden said, "You can just feel his presence out there, physical, same old Dallas. You only have to tell him one time. He's very coachable and next play, he gets it right."

But the 5'10" athlete is more than just a morale booster and leader in the secondary, he really can contribute. Crawford holds the school record at South Fort Myers (Fla.) High School with 23 interceptions, so he is certainly mentally prepared to play safety.

Per Porter, "[Crawford is] so comfortable, and he's tough," Golden said. "We've got a long way to go with him at that position, but he is just so willing."

And because it's possible Crawford would have been underused behind Duke, Yearby and Edwards, the move allows someone Golden considers "one of the 22 best football players on the football team," per Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, to see the field more often.


Special Teams Leader

Golden, who serves as the special teams coach, relied on since-departed running back Eduardo Clements to lead the kick coverage units.

As a freshman, Crawford was a notable part of special teams, tallying 10 tackles, including two games with three stops. Plus, he even snagged an interception as a member of the punt block team.

Crawford occasionally played there last season, but it's safe to assume he will be a key contributor this year both physically and vocally.

According to ESPN's Andrea Adelson, Golden said Crawford has "always been great on special teams," before calling him smart and tough.

Fresh off a 558-yard season, he is content with moving to a low-profile role, passing up the glamorous work of scoring touchdowns and bulldozing through defenders.

And that is a testament to Crawford's selfless attitude, being willing to do anything to help his team win.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.


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