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Tim Reynolds | The Associated Press | October 25, 2013

Miami's emerging gem at RB

Dallas Crawford Miami

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Dallas Crawford was a quarterback in high school, a scout-team defensive back in his first year at Miami, and little more than an afterthought as a second-string running back coming into this season.

He’s in the spotlight now.

The most significant development for Miami’s football program so far this season was Tuesday’s news that the NCAA probe of the Hurricanes — and years of uncertainty about the mess involving former booster Nevin Shapiro — is now finally over. Perhaps the second-best development for Miami this year is the emergence of Crawford, who has run for two touchdowns in each of the Hurricanes’ last four games.

And he’ll have a key role in the game plan when No. 7 Miami (6-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) on Saturday.

“Everybody here has a lot of respect for Dallas,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “He just quietly goes about his craft and develops skills. He’s got himself into great shape. He’s lost weight. His body looks markedly different than when he first got here. He’s quicker. He’s certainly smarter in terms of his football knowledge.”

Golden said those words a few days before the NCAA’s ruling in the Miami case was handed down. The university decided to not make Golden or his players available for comment since, and their first time speaking about the decision — or football, for that matter — will be after Saturday’s game.

“Coach Golden always stresses a player having value,” Crawford said. “I just try to make myself as valuable as possible.”

The Hurricanes are unbeaten for plenty of reasons, and Crawford is pretty high on that list. Injuries knocked Miami’s top running back (Duke Johnson) and wide receiver (Phillip Dorsett) out of the Hurricanes’ most recent game, Oct. 17 against North Carolina, in the opening quarter. And quarterback Stephen Morris struggled mightily in that game, throwing four interceptions.

So the workload went to Crawford, who had 31 carries for 142 yards — total — in his college career before that game.

That night alone, he rushed 33 times for 137 yards, his two fourth-quarter touchdown runs saving Miami and letting the Hurricanes escape with a come-from-behind 27-23 win.

“He means a lot,” Johnson said. “Dallas came in as a (defensive back), then they moved him to receiver, then they moved him to running back. So Dallas knows everything on the field. He does everything he’s supposed to do, the way it’s supposed to be done, game in, game out, day in, day out. Dallas has come through for us in a big way.”

That’s not just at running back, either.

Crawford has been a special-teams stalwart for Miami, excelling on kickoff coverage. The Hurricanes think running back is his best position, but more than anything else, he’s just a football player, filling any number of roles.

“It’s a crazy ride, but I was prepared for any adversity,” Crawford said. “I really haven’t taken time and relished in the moment. I’ll have time for that after the season. Right now it’s just about winning games.”

The Hurricanes have basically asked Crawford to be their closer. He has 11 first-quarter carries this season, 13 in second quarters and 11 in third quarters. But in the fourth, sometimes with games on the line — like the North Carolina game — he’s gotten the ball 23 times. For the season, he’s run for nine touchdowns, and done so on only 58 total carries.

“It’s always great recruiting those high school quarterbacks,” Miami offensive coordinator James Coley said. “In order to play quarterback, you have to know a lot of different things. You have to know what everybody else is doing. That’s what’s helped him understand the big picture. He found his role.”

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